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Transcription of Love Maine Radio #343: Jennifer Hutchins and Evelyn King

Speaker 1:            You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle. Recorded at the studio’s of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available of lovemaineradio.com.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 343 airing for the first time on April 15, 2018. Today we speak with Jennifer Hutchins, the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits, and fly fisher Evelyn King, who is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited Women’s Fly fishing Group. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Grownupgirls.com, where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life. For free advice, workshops and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to grownupgirl.com now to learn about our available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area. Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio.

Portland Art Gallery is the cities largest, and is located in the heart of the old port, 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the works of contemporary Maine artists, and hosts a series of monthly shows in its newly expanded space, including Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Jennifer Hutchins became the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits in July 2016 where she leads a member network of more than 900 charitable nonprofits and 150 private partners. Prior to joining the Maine Association of Nonprofits, she led the city of Portland’s efforts to strengthen the creative economy as Executive Director of Creative Portland. Thanks for coming in today.

Jennifer H.:                            Thank you.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve actually had a foot in all kinds of different sectors, you’ve got some public policy experience, you’ve got some creative sector experience. Now you’re doing nonprofits, what was your original thinking on how your life would unfold when you were say a senior in high school, did it look like this?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, that’s a great question. I was just talking to some young people the other day about my path. I actually, when I first graduated from high school, I wanted to go into international banking. This was back in the day when Melanie Griffith was defining what it looked like to be a working girl, and so I pictured myself with the big hair and the big shoulder pads and the high heels going down the boulevards of Paris and London, and that’s what I thought I wanted to do.

I went to college and that’s where I discovered more deeply what my real values were, and where I still had high aspirations for doing a lot of international travel and getting to know a lot of different types of people and a lot of different types of cultures. I realized that it wasn’t in the private sector that I really wanted to have impact, and so I have spent time internationally, and I’ve spent time in some of our larger cities in the United States.

Ultimately however, I determined that living in a place like Maine provides an opportunity to have a greater impact in my community.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You originally came to Maine as a child of Navy parents.

Jennifer H.:                            Right, yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You moved here because I believe it was your father that was stationed at the Naval Air base at the time?

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, my father is a retired Navy pilot, and had spent some time stationed at Brunswick Naval Air Station. They really liked it, and so when he got out of the military, he was still young enough to fly commercially. They chose to move to Maine from Southern California, so that was quite a change for my teenage older brothers and myself, and just getting ready to go into middle school.

I remember moving here in the dead of winter from Southern California and coming home from school and saying to my mom, “They’re wearing boots with chains on the bottom.” The famous L.L. Bean boot, which I still have that pair of boots, and I’m quite proud of today, because I’m not wearing any of the fancy new ones, mine are old school. When I first moved here as a young kid, I really questioned the style choice of those L.L. Bean boots, but I quickly grew to love living in Brunswick, and I eventually graduated from high school in Brunswick, Maine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you’ve had, you’ve had the chance to live in other places. You obviously could, you could still be in DC, you could go back to Southern California. You could go somewhere international and be Melanie Griffith presumably.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, I guess.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You still are here, what’s kept you here?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, first and foremost family. When I moved back to Portland having lived abroad and lived in bigger cities, at first I didn’t want to stay. This was 20 years ago when Portland wasn’t quite as hot. I was in my 20s, and it seemed like everybody lived out West, and there were the big cities out West that were really drawing people at that time. For the first couple of years I really resisted staying in Maine for too long, and then I was taking a photography class at Maine College of Art, and I was having a conversation with the instructor.

She said to me, “You know Jen, if you go to New York or Boston and you try to be a photographer, you’re going to be one in a sea of people.” She said, “If you stay here, you actually might have a shot at making a niche for yourself.” Now I ended up choosing to get my Masters degree at the University of Southern Maine and staying here, and so my niche ended up being policy and community development, public policy and community development.

The same remained … It was the same case, I would meet with professors and they would say, “That’s a really great question, why don’t we find a time when we can meet with one of the Governors policy advisors?” or, “Why don’t you give this CEO a call?” It was amazing how the access to decision-makers and people who wanted to make a difference was just 1° or 2° of separation, whereas I knew that if I moved back to Washington DC, or I started a new career in New York or elsewhere, it would just be so much more complicated to really feel like I could connect with people who were making a difference.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What was it about the creative economy that kept you working as the Executive Director of Creative Portland for so long?

Jennifer H.:                            My early career had started in advocacy for arts and culture. I worked for an organization in Washington DC called People for the American Way, which was a First Amendment organization, and I did research into challenges to creative expression. It was founded by the TV producer Norman Lear, who was concerned about the impact that the religious right was having on the media waves. He started his own watchdog organization that was just tracking how that movement was impacting the media.

I became very familiar with the national endowment for the arts, and the back then challenges to the national endowment for the arts around artistic expression. I also come from a long line of musicians and actors, and so the arts and culture just from my family’s perspective were very important to me. Then I also had spent, after college spent two years in Europe and saw how the Europeans embed arts and culture into their daily lives.

It’s not considered something like entertainment that you do when you have an extra few dollars, it’s embedded in everything that they do. I became very passionate about advocating for the arts, and so I built on that interest in arts and culture with my public-policy skills. Then the creative economy work really came out of some of those attacks to artistic expression in the early 90s as a way for people to understand the importance of arts and culture in our lives beyond just the entertainment value.

I really became very interested in how the creative economy, economic development work really was integrating and developing a whole new case for why we need arts and culture in our communities.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What did you learn? What were some of the lessons? Why do we need arts and culture in our communities?

Jennifer H.:                            Well, I firmly believe that Portland wouldn’t be Portland without all of those arts and cultural institutions. I think that when you go out now and you ask people about Portland, certainly they list restaurants is right at the top of the list, and some include restaurants as part of the creative economy at this point for sure. Even deeper than that, I really believe that people respond to the ethos, the Zeitgeist of the community, and I firmly believe that the history of Portland has been shaped so much by cultural institutions that have been here for decades.

Then more recently, some of our institutions that are about 30 years old, the Portland Stage Company and some of these other institutions, Maine College of Art, and the Museum of course have been here longer than that. Then in the 70s there was another wave of cultural institutions, and I think no one can deny that it’s what really makes a true impact of what the community is. I think the other thing that I learned that was really interesting in some of the research that we did, is sometimes you think of the creative economy as only impacting urban areas.

What was interesting to learn, was to go to other more remote parts of Maine and realize that there is an activity and a vibrancy to community that is magnetized by creative activity. Again, even in some of our smaller communities where it might be harder to find a cluster of activity if you will, there’s really demonstrated value in people who want to be there, and who are creative people just doing great things. Then as a result, economic activity comes with that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              As you’re talking, I’m thinking about the Stone Mountain Arts Center out in Brownfield, which I mean that’s a perfect example of something that grew out of Carol Noonan’s love of music, and seems like it’s plopped down in the middle of nowhere, but it has been so accepted and loved, by not only the local community, but also the greater community.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, that’s an excellent example, another really favorite example of mine is the Stonington Opera House, and what I really love about the Stonington Opera House and I think Stone Mountain’s very similar, is that if you initially go to Stonington, you see a very, very traditional fishing village really. Not at all like a more developed community like Boothbay Harbor, or Camden, but very much still a fishing village, a working village.

You might at first think that plunking, or renovating an old community center and opera house into an art center that does Shakespeare and plays and movies and community events, that they might have a hard time integrating. Really to the contrary, the people who founded that organization and who maintain it have really done an exceptional job. I feel like I know a little bit of what I’m talking about, because I married a man whose family is from Deer Isle, Stonington.

The Weed’s and the Eaton’s worthy were the early European settlers of Deer Isle, and so my husband’s family are still fishermen in that community. When we visit Stonington and we talk with people who have been living there for many years, families who have been living there for decades, they only speak very highly of the Opera House, and they refer to going to events there. Again, I think Stonington wouldn’t look the way it is without the Opera House, and they’ve done a phenomenal job in my opinion of integrating themselves with people who’ve been there longer than they have.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Music is a particular interest of yours, and you have an affiliation with MAMM.

Jennifer H.:                            That’s right, Maine Academy of Modern Music, yeah. I’m on the board, and my daughter Sadie is a musician there. What a fantastic organization, my daughter Sadie is shy and introverted, but we have my parents old piano, and she started piano and singing a little bit when she was young. Over time, she became familiar with Maine Academy of Modern Music and said she wanted to be in a band much to our surprise, because of her introversion and her shyness.

Well suffice it to say that much to our surprise Sadie manages to get up on stage and sing in front of 300 people at their annual Girls Rock Concert. It’s just so inspiring to see a kid who wouldn’t dare speak a word in class, get up and sing on her own an Amy Winehouse song, a Regina Spektor song, and just really thrive in that environment. I’m so grateful for that experience for her, because otherwise I don’t really know what …

I’m sure she would figure out how to come out of her shell, but it was so helpful for me as a parent to see her have a really constructive venue for expressing herself and coming out of her shell in a way that made sense for her.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’m struck by the fact that in order to bring the arts to the Maine community and really the larger community, that we actually have to have nonprofit supporting them, because as you’ve mentioned, we aren’t like other parts of the world where the arts are really integrated into governmental funding for example. Is this one of the ways that you became interested in nonprofits? Tell me that story.

Jennifer H.:                            Yeah, sure, so if I had had the talent of being a singer I would’ve done that first. However, I have realized that it is best for me to keep my singing as an advocation. If I in terms of my profession, if I can be the aficionado, and I can be the advocates for artists and people who are doing good work in the community, I’m happy to recognize where my true skills lie.

The way I look at the nonprofit sector, is that it’s the way the American system has set itself up for taking care of the work that either the public, or the private sectors have either opted not to do or can’t do themselves. What happens literally with nonprofits, is that a group of community people get together and they say, “This work has to happen in our community. We are passionate about having these values, these activities, whatever mission it is that they come to, we want this in our community.”

They’ve determined that it won’t either be funded through the public system, or it won’t be funded through the private system. You’ve said, and as I was mentioning about being in other parts of the world, in the United States the arts and cultures tends not to be valued to the extent in either the public, or the private sector as much as you see in other parts of the world. As a result, a lot of the arts and cultural activity does happen supported through the nonprofit sector.

We have about of our 900 members, and then we also know this is similar to the entire population in nonprofits, roughly 16% to 20% are arts and cultural institutions. I would venture to guess that most of the cultural activities that people participate in, there’s a nonprofit behind them that is working hard to expand access to communities to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to do that. It certainly is the nonprofits that are the ones that are taking care of that work.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What is the advantage of having an association of nonprofits?

Jennifer H.:                            Our association is, one of the primary activities that we do is provide information and education to nonprofit staff and board members and volunteers. We really want people to see us as the place they go when they have a question. Our members are and do call us on a daily basis with various questions that pop up, and we also want them to be able to go onto our website and get what we call the best practices of being a nonprofit.

The old adage is, is that you seen one nonprofit, you’ve seen one nonprofit. There are so many different kinds, different sizes, different missions. At the same time, there are some standard ways that in terms of ethics and values, in terms of legal responsibilities, in terms of fiscal responsibility, a checklist of things you need to take care of. We try to be that resource for everyone.

That’s the education side of making sure nonprofits have the information they need to be efficient and effective, but we also do quite a bit of work in advocacy. That’s around making sure that the voice of the nonprofit sector is at the table. As we’ve already talked about, nonprofits are filling a very important role in the success of our Maine communities, and to that end nonprofits really need to be at the decision-making table when a community is figuring out the steps that it wants to take to rectify issues, or take advantage of opportunities.

We feel responsible for making sure that people outside the nonprofit sector understand who nonprofits are, understand the impact that they are making, and facilitate the opportunities for nonprofits to work more closely with their community partners to support Maine nonprofits.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been doing this particular job for about a year and a half, and that’s enough time to know what you know, and know what you’d like to know. What are some of the things that you’ve learned that you are surprised by? What are some of the things that you’d like to keep trying to figure out?

Jennifer H.:                            That’s a great question, I think in the first year and a half in this job, I think what I’ve learned the most is really mostly about me. That sounds really self-centered, but one of the things that we try to emphasize at the Maine Association of Nonprofits is the need for Maine to have leaders who are prepared to work collaboratively, transparently, with integrity, in a collective fashion, that moves Maine forward.

I have had the opportunity, because our Association places so much emphasis on providing nonprofit leaders with the awareness, the self-awareness of what they bring to the table, the type of leadership skills and attributes that they bring to the table. I have learned a lot about my own leadership style, and the things that I think are the qualities and the attributes that I think I can add to our community, add to the state.

This has been really helpful for me, it’s a little bit like you’ve got to understand yourself before you can really start to understand other people. The second part of your question is what more do you want to learn? I’m really excited about following this path a little bit. You may have heard recently that the Maine Association of Nonprofits has adopted a new program from the organization Lift360, a program called Emerging Leaders.

It’s for younger people, younger professionals who are interested in supporting nonprofits to go through a program by which they learn how to serve on a nonprofit board. They will learn a little bit about themselves as leaders, and how they can contribute. I’m really excited about this opportunity, Lift did a great job of getting the program started, and has run it successfully for several years. We are excited now about building on that foundation, and potentially moving it to other parts of the state.

As I said, I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve learned a lot about the qualities of leadership that I think are going to be really important to Maine’s future. I’m excited about the prospect of working with people out there in the community and applying those newfound skills and attributes to the issues of impacting Maine.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you would talk about younger people being on boards, because a lot of times, and maybe this is a complete misperception on my part, but there is the idea that once you retire you join a board, or several boards. I always think of older people who have a lot of experience and have been doing things for a while, and they’re coming in and they’re going to add their valuable knowledge and connections to a board.

What you’re talking about is completely opposite, it’s a fresh perspective and a different approach perhaps. Why is that important?

Jennifer H.:                            The nonprofit community nationally for a while now has been talking about the need to diversify the perspectives on boards. That’s diverse perspectives from a lot of different angles, whether it’s gender diversity, or ethnic diversity, or age diversity, or profession diversity. Many nonprofits are contemplating the idea that they should really have clients who benefit from their services, make sure their representation is on the board.

At the same time there is a lot of research out there, and this was in the creative economy as well, that makes it very clear that having a variety of thinkers and diverse viewpoints leads to more innovation, leads to more creativity. Some of the major corporations these days are talking about how the more diverse the team is, the better outcomes. I think there’s definitely an awareness out there. There’s been lots of research, the trick is how to actually make that happen.

There has been some recent research that we know about nationally, one is called, “Race to Lead,” that is talking about how people from communities of color are having a hard time getting into nonprofit leadership positions at nonprofit organizations, and realizing that a lot of the resistance is coming from an implicit bias on the part of the stereotypical board member as you’re identifying. The challenge for us now is not in the is it important?

I think there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that it is very important and beneficial, the question is how do we make that happen? If we go back to age diversity for a minute, some of that is just a practical who has the time to serve on a board? As you’ve said the first group that you mentioned were retirees, and they are some of the ones that are the most effective on boards, just because they are the ones who have the time to show up.

What people are thinking about, is as a result of that we need to change the way we think. We need to be flexible in the way boards govern themselves, in the way boards receive that type of perspective. It may be that the thirty something who’s just starting a family and has a full-time job and commitments in and outside of work, they may not be able to go to a board meeting once a month for three hours.

They may have to be able to contribute in alternative ways, and so that’s another reason why I’m excited about this new program, is by bringing that program into the Maine Association of Nonprofits, we can really start to chip away at the how do we get these new perspectives on these various boards?

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you have a foot in both camps, you have the right brain, left brain thing going on. You’ve got the creative, and then you’ve got the more perhaps linear. I know that this has been a whole journey for yourself, if you were able to talk to your self at the age of 17 or 18 when you thought you were going to be Melanie Griffith with the shoulder pads and the good hair on the streets of Paris and London and all that sort of thing, what would you say?

Jennifer H.:                            Stop worrying, sometimes I think about all the time that I spent worrying about, what if I had done this? Should I have done this? Did I miss this opportunity? Was I good enough? I’ll never be good enough, and I just literally think about the time, the literal time that I spent worrying, and had I been able to take that time back and just pour it into whatever interested me that day.

Instead of judging what I wasn’t doing, but to focus on what I was doing, and to find the things that truly interested me, the things that make woke me up, and shifted the amount of time I was investing. I really would love to reinvest my worry time. I don’t know, now that I approach my 50s I feel like maybe my worry time is finally starting to abate, but I did a lot of hand wringing in my 20s.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I don’t think you’re alone in this, at least I’m in your group anyway. It’s good to hear you say that. I’ve been speaking with Jennifer Hutchins who became the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits in July 2016. We’re happy to have you doing the work you’re doing, and really appreciate your taking the time to talk with us today.

Jennifer H.:                            Thanks, it’s been really fun.

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              Fly fisher Evelyn King is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Women’s Fly fishing Group. She also serves on Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Board of Directors and volunteers with Casting for Recovery, a fly fishing instructional program for breast cancer survivors. Thanks for coming in today.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, I’m honored, thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              One of the reasons we were interested in having you in, at least one of the reasons I was interested in having you in, is that one of the ways that my father, who’s a family doctor, used to decompress after having taken care of patients and my nine younger brothers and sisters was to go fishing along the Royal river. He was not a fly fisherman, but I remember this very clearly that there was something about the water that really gave him great calm and great peace.

I didn’t really quite get that as a child why one would do that, but it seems like you get that, because otherwise you wouldn’t be doing the work that you do.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, when you’re on the water you’re living in the moment. You appreciate what’s around you, it slows you down, and especially for someone that has a job that requires a lot of thinking or stress, when you get on the river you put that aside. It’s like meditation or yoga, you live in the moment and the double reward is that it de-stresses you, but also the more you live in the moment and notice what’s around you, the better fishermen you are.

You start to see the bugs on the water, you start to really see what’s going on in nature, see the water patterns. It just tunes you in and you become a much better fisherman, so I can see that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been doing this with women specifically, but you’ve been basically doing fly fishing your entire life, not just with women.

Evelyn King:                           Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You see the benefit for everybody really?

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, I fish with my husband who was then my boyfriend when I was a teenager. He laughs about it, because I loved … I always want to be outdoors, I love to be outdoors, but I was primarily a runner like Joan Samuelson, but I would go fishing with him, because I wanted to do things with him and I would try. If ever another man showed up on the river, like if we were in a river or on a pond in a boat, if another man showed up I would tuck the rod away.

I thought that I wasn’t good enough to be fishing and I was embarrassed. I loved to fish, but I was really a shy fisherman. He kept encouraging me, telling me that it doesn’t matter, you don’t need to cast well. You do as well as anyone else on the river, and I think that’s why I eventually figured out that a way to give back was to encourage other women to take on that risk as well. To not be afraid and not to be intimidated, and not to follow their passion, because other people were watching them.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you would find that intimidating given that you were one of the early classes of women to integrate at Exeter, and then were in one of the early classes of women to integrate at Bowdoin, where you were in the same class with Joan Benoit Samuelson, and yet you got on the river with men and somehow you felt like it wasn’t your place?

Evelyn King:                           Wow, that’s a good question, or a good comment. I’m also a perfectionist, somewhat of a perfectionist, and I think when I do things I really want to figure them out. When I was fishing, what really got me motivated to get better at fishing, was I would watch other people fish. I didn’t understand why they would put the fly under the bank along the other side of the river? Why were they not fishing below us? How did they know which fly to put on? How did they know to get their fly to land just right?

As a somewhat of a perfectionist I knew I couldn’t do what they were doing, and so I wanted to watch I think. It gave me a lifetime of learning to try to figure those things out.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I actually think that there is something a little bit gender oriented about that, because from what I understand female physicians often feel like they are imposters when they’re early on in their careers. There’s something called the imposter syndrome, whereas male physicians are more likely to believe that they know enough, and feel confident in the work that they are doing.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I suspect this is probably true across other fields, but it’s interesting that what you’re describing, and I don’t know that this is the case, but I just wonder if there is a gender predisposition here.

Evelyn King:                           You might be right, because I know a number of men that I’ve met through the years that are avid fisherman and have fished all their lives. It hasn’t been their passion to figure out all the flies. They know five or six flies and they know one stretch of river, and they’re very confident at that. That imposter syndrome is … I definitely felt like an imposter, but it didn’t keep me from doing it, it just slowed down my risk-taking when other people were around.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You are also a fourth-generation camp director at a girls camp.

Evelyn King:                           Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been responsible for encouraging young women from an early age to go out and do the things that made them happy regardless of whether there is a gender orientation to their choice.

Evelyn King:                           Right, right, and we always laughed, my grandfather who was the second-generation camp director, camp owner of Campbell Wohelo. He always said there’s nothing women can’t do that men can do, it just sometimes it needs a few more bodies. We would be moving these huge docks on the beach to get them in the water, and sometimes we’d put 30 people, 30 women around the dock to move it. We didn’t need a tractor, we just got enough woman power together.

Yeah, I’ve always felt really strongly about empowering women, and I have two daughters, and I was raised from the time I was two at the summer camp for girls, all the way up through to being a counselor and a camp director. I raised our children the same way there, and I just always felt like it was such a positive environment, but it wasn’t ever about women being better or stronger or anything. It was just having women be in their own environment as a community, and empowering each other and not comparing themselves to the opposite gender during those informative years.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              We’re in an interesting time, because you’ve been doing this work for a long, long while, trying to empower women. Yet many young women are feeling like we’re not far enough along.

Evelyn King:                           Right, it is interesting. I think people are becoming more aware. I don’t have the answer for that one.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I don’t either, that’s why I was asking you, because I figured maybe you had some insights based on the work that you’ve been doing.

Evelyn King:                           Yeah, I think my approach has always been to work in collaboration with men, like with Trout Unlimited. When I started there it was basically all men in the meeting room. I didn’t go in saying, “I am a woman, I am strong.” I just went in saying, “How can I help you bring more women into the fold? Let’s expand this,” and they asked me to do that, and it was just such a treat. I’ve had the men help us with a lot of events, and they’ve been really welcoming, they have been so supportive.

I feel like in my life I’ve gotten so much more done by collaborating with all across the community regardless of gender or nationality or anything, rather than being confrontational about it. Not that, that’s a bad way at all, it’s just a different way, and I just have benefited from collaborations.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I feel the same way, I have two daughters also and a son, so my son is my oldest child, and then my middle child is 22, and I have a 17-year-old. It really never made sense for me, and I have five brothers and a father who I adore. It never made sense for me to be confrontational and to be blaming these men around me for problems that women were experiencing. I don’t know that this is what’s happening now in our culture with every young woman, but I definitely am sensing some friction with some of what’s happening and it’s painful.

Evelyn King:                           It is.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I think specifically of my own son, and I would never want him to feel responsible for things that an entire gender is possibly being blamed for.

Evelyn King:                           Right, yeah, no, I have a son and the two daughters as well. I love the fact that women can be treated equally, should be treated equally, and I like to think of it just on the positive side that it’s so wonderful what we can do to empower our youth. I have a granddaughter now, empower our grandchildren, be role models. It’s not breaking down barriers, but just opening doors of possibility. Look you can go to Trout Unlimited and be one of the first women in the group, and then other women will follow.

Eventually, I’ll hope to take my granddaughter with me to Trout Unlimited, yeah, just to be inspiration and a mentor, and try to take that approach.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about Trout Unlimited. I’m sure there are people who are listening that don’t have a good sense of what that organization is or does.

Evelyn King:                           It’s a national organization, they’re 400 chapters within the US. Maine has five, I belong to Sebago Trout Unlimited, and we have about 600, 650 members. It’s just a wonderful organization. I think a lot of people that are just in the audience that aren’t really participating in conservation are there because they love to fish. Through fishing, they’ve really gained an appreciation for how important it is to have clean, cold water, and to keep invasive species out of the water, and take down dams, and open fish passageways.

Our group has been instrumental in reclaiming five ponds in the state of Maine, and by that I mean taking the invasive species out and cleaning the habitat, so that the native brook trout can spawn and grow, and not be eaten by invasive species. We’ve also helped with two dam removals, and that’s so exciting because you’re opening up the waterways, sea-run brook trout can come in from the ocean. Often on the Mousam River, or the Royal River, they can only go as far as the first impediment.

Trout Unlimited is looking at all these river systems and trying to figure out and collaborating with the state of Maine and National TU, and National Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Fishing Wildlife to try to find ways to fund the removal of dams, or safe passage around them. It’s a very dynamic group, there’s a core group of people, Steve Hines is on our board, and he organizes the conservation part.

He has developed this whole team that helps him now grant writing and organizing with towns and with the water quality people, just trying to collaborate to help pull these things off.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about the work that you do with Casting for Recovery.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, that’s so rewarding. I got asked, I was friends with Bonnie Holding, I have been for years and years. She has annually held a Casting for Recovery retreat for breast cancer survivors. I tried to get into the program for a couple of years, and she always had more volunteers than she needed, and so it motivated me to get my guides license, so that I was qualified, so she couldn’t say no.

Eventually I got to go, I’ve been going for about five years to help on the weekend retreats. It’s the whole combination of getting into nature, getting women into nature, breaking the pattern of thought by exposing them to a new sport. Meeting new people, and developing that bond, and then fishing is, fly fishing especially is therapeutic as you know being a doctor. The motion of casting is therapeutic for people that have had surgery on their breasts.

I think the community that’s built on that three-day weekend is just amazing. I’ve read the comments that people have made afterwards that it sometimes has changed their lives, because it gives them something beyond their illness and their current situation, to dream about, to think about. It’s a peaceful place, so I’ve been helping for five years, and then a couple of times I got discouraged at my skills, because casting looks like a simple thing, but it’s hard to teach it without going down these rabbit holes.

I wanted to learn how to teach it in a really simple, positive way. That inspired me to get my casting certification to be a certified casting instructor just so that I could give back. It’s not something I do as a career, but I just wanted to make that experience as rewarding, and simple, and stress-free as possible for the girls.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What does that entail to get one’s casting certification?

Evelyn King:                           For me it was a two year process of really intense practice. I went to L.L. Bean’s and Rod McGarry, and McCauley Lord. McCauley went to Bowdoin as well, they were instructors in a program, and I did it two years in a road to reinforce what I was learning. The skills, the specific skills needed to teach casting, but along the way it’s really to perfect your own casting, because you need to put yourself out there.

Talk about risk taking, put yourself out there to show what a good cast looks like. What people are inspired to try to learn, and then for two years of practicing, Rod McGarry was my mentor, and we met a couple of times a month at Payson in Park, and then I would cast … I work in Portland, and I would jump in the car in lunch breaks and go to the West End, or Payson Park, or Back Bay with my fly rod and my cones and my hula hoops, and I would just practice accuracy and distance casting.

I also liked doing that, because people would stop and ask me about it. It was a way to show a woman doing something that men would usually do, and also just bring awareness to fly fishing, so that was it. Then the whole process culminates with a written test and an oral practice test, which is harder than anything I’ve done in my whole life. Just being ready for that moment, and being calm enough, and you really have to perfect your skill for any weather, any wind conditions.

When I passed it I was ecstatic, and I remember I did it with another girl, and the two of us both passed. We went down to Massachusetts and passed it, and on the way home we were driving, there was this full moon in front of us, and I said, “Laney, we did it, and every time you see that full moon for the rest of your life you need to feel that sense of empowerment, and just believe that you can do it.” It was wonderful.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It’s interesting that you have gone in this direction of fly fishing, because in your parallel life you are a commercial real estate paralegal at Monaghan Leahy, so you have this very intellectual and very technical aspect in your work life. Then you have an intellectual and technical aspect to your other life, but it’s also there’s a mindfulness to that second life I guess.

Evelyn King:                           Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Do you think that you were seeking something like that? Do you think you were seeking a counterbalance?

Evelyn King:                           Oh, always, always. My work path, I love to read, I love to learn, and I really like to be a sleuth. I do due diligence in my work, but it’s the same skill set that you use on the river. I’ve been working in Portland for Monaghan Leahy for 10 years this summer and it’s been wonderful. They’ve been so supportive of what I do, and I have friends, Tom Leahy is a big fisherman, so we are able to share that passion, talking about what we do on the weekends.

When I started 10 years ago, prior to that I had worked for myself doing the same type of work, but I had always dictated my own schedule. When it was a nice day, I took off the middle of the day and I was outside. I always managed to put work in with … Fit it in between other things that I did with the kids, or did with fishing. When I started in a job, a real job, it was my first real job where I had to leave the house at seven in the morning and work a long day.

I got home at seven at night, the number one priority was to have a window. They laugh about this, but I said I really could not work in a room without being able to see the outdoors at least. Then number two priority was to make sure that every moment on the weekend counted. That I could be outside, that I really would treasure, feel so grateful for that time I had outside. No coincidence that 10 years ago was really when I went full force into fishing on the weekends, and into everything fishing related to counterbalance the inside work.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is probably not a relevant question, but I’m just interested, I’m a little nosy sometimes. Why did you decide to go from this other life that you had to this full-time job?

Evelyn King:                           Oh, I am a real estate broker as well as a title abstractor. What I did prior to working at Monaghan Leahy, was going from courthouse to courthouse pulling books and doing research. Right about that time two things happened, and one is that they put the books all online so that it was digital, so that people could stay in their office to do the research. I was a dinosaur, I was of that era of the private independent title abstractor’s.

There are very few now, because people can do the work from their office. Then also there was a slump in the real estate market, and I was doing primarily residential real estate research then, and it really took a nosedive. My husband is a commercial Lobsterman, and at the same time the lobstering industry was floundering. I just decided that it was time for a new adventure, fun to be in Portland, I really was excited to come and work in Portland.

When I interviewed with Tom Leahy at Monaghan Leahy, I was just really excited about the possibility of being in a team. I’d done work mostly on my own, I had a few abstractor’s that worked for me for a while, but suddenly to be part of a community. I think that’s always been a common theme in my life, so it intrigued me and I have really enjoyed it. Never questioned that decision for a second.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well, I guess it is actually relevant, because most people in their lives now are going to have several iterations of their selves. You can believe when you graduate from Bowdoin as you did and I did, that your life is going to look a certain way. Then things happen, and you adjust, and you sometimes become a different version of your earlier self. That’s actually okay, and it’s actually a good thing, and maybe it’s really important for the new graduates of Bowdoin to understand that.

That there’s not really any wrong choice.

Evelyn King:                           Right, so every downside, every thing that seems like a conflict in your path is apt to lead to something more powerful, more relevant to your life. I think you have to approach life that way, just see every challenge as an opportunity to grow. When I think of what has happened in the last 10 years by that decision, it’s mind boggling. I don’t know what the next story is, I don’t know in 10 years from now what I’ll be doing, but I think it’s very important to not feel so strongly that you have to make a choice that you stick with the rest of your life.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I also have noticed that, particularly in Maine, most people wear lots of different hats, so someone can be a commercial fisherman, and they can also be a filmmaker. Someone can be a chef, and they can also be a singer-songwriter. It’s a very interesting thing that in this … It seems like Maine is very much fostering of that creative spirit.

Evelyn King:                           Absolutely, and the irony is that I was an art major at Bowdoin. As an art major that didn’t prepare me for working in a law firm at all, but that theme has been underlying. Prior to getting into the fishing wholeheartedly, I was doing a lot with jewelry, but at the same time working as a title abstractor, and then working at the summer camp as a camp director. I think Maine is that way. Maine is also so special, because it’s a small community, so you can really make a difference.

My voice is not going to carry forever and ever, but in Maine I can have an impact, you can have an impact. This show is fabulous, and by living in a state where our voices can be heard, it just feels like we can make more of a difference in all the different directions we go in.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve been coming to Maine since you were a child really, but you moved to Maine when you were 12?

Evelyn King:                           Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’re originally from Montréal?

Evelyn King:                           Yes, my mother was from the United States and went to McGill to school. She was a skier, and she met my father who was from Canada, and so when they got married they settled in Canada, in Montréal. I have fond memories of skiing in the Laurentian’s, and we lived on the water, but every summer we came down to camp, to the Luther Gulick camps. When I think of my memories of childhood, it’s much more about being in the woods on Sebago Lake, building fairy houses out of twigs and pine cones, and learning to canoe, and being outdoors.

When my parents decided to move to Maine I was thrilled. Yeah, Maine is a really special place.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              For women who might be interested in learning about fly fishing, what would you suggest?

Evelyn King:                           Oh well, I mean obviously I’d love to have anyone that’s interested join our Women’s Fly fishing Group. We don’t charge for the events we have, up till now we have monthly meetings. We’re just trying to provide a very social community of energetic, enthusiastic women that want to learn a new skill. Some are good fly fisherman, women that want to learn additional things, and a lot of the women that come to our meetings are brand-new to the sport.

It’s really exciting to me, I can think of a handful of people that have started fishing because of our group, and have just been so grateful for that community and that empowerment and the enthusiasm of everybody that’s around that’s helping with the group. We’re trying to break down the barriers in making people realize that it’s accessible, you can fish in the Royal River, you can fish in the ocean. In Maine, you can fish just about anywhere, and you can buy a package of gear for under $100 at L.L Bean’s, or probably Cabela’s.

You don’t need to have fancy equipment, and you don’t need to be able to cast perfectly. You can fly fish with six feet of leader out at the end of your rod, and just as if you’re playing with a cat with a little toy. You can just tease the fish and have joy just doing that.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Evelyn King is a founding director of the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Women’s Fly fishing Group. She also serves on the Sebago Trout Unlimited’s Board of Directors and volunteers with Casting for Recovery, a fly fishing instructional program for breast cancer survivors. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing, and thanks for coming in.

Evelyn King:                           Oh, my honor, thank you for having me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 343. Our guests have included Jennifer Hutchins and Evelyn King. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-news letter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page.

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Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, Art Collector Maine, and by grownupgirls.com. Our editorial producer is Kate Gardner, our Assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #342: Quincy Hentzel and Paul Golding + Alexandra Sagov

Speaker 1:                                         You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and Editor in Chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Dr. Belisle:                             This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 342, airing for the first time on April 8th 2018. Today we speak with Quincy Hentzel, the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Golding and Alexandra Sagov, of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency located in Scarborough. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by grownupgirl.com, where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Got to grownupgirl.com now, to learn about available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor “Love Maine Radio.” Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the art of the Old Port, at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingun Jorgensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com

Dr. Belisle:                             Quincy Hentzel has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce since July of 2017. Thanks for coming in today.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Thanks for having me.

Dr. Belisle:                             You’ve been in Maine for, we decided I think, 15 years.

Quincy Hentzel:                  15 years. Yes.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah. But you’re not from Maine originally.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I’m not. I grew up outside of Chicago, in the suburbs, spent my whole childhood there, did college, did law school, and moved to Maine … I think we just decided … 2003.

Dr. Belisle:                             You followed a boy here-

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did.

Dr. Belisle:                             … is what you told me.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did. I followed a boy here who was also not from Maine but had gotten a job out here. And we thought that we were gonna stay for just a few years and then move back to Chicago. And we both fell in love with Maine. We’re both still here. We’re not still together, but we’re both still here. And I just love, love the city of Portland, love the state of Maine, and have made this my home.

Dr. Belisle:                             You had an interesting detour between Chicago and Maine. You actually were in DC for quite a while.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Well, I worked in DC, so my time in DC was while I was living in Portland, so when I moved to Portland, the very first job that I got was doing government relations work and lobbying work. And that job took me to Augusta and also to Washington DC, so I was always living in Portland but traveled quite a bit to Washington.

Dr. Belisle:                             When you were in school, did you know that you wanted to do lobbying work?

Quincy Hentzel:                  No, I think lobbying work is one of those jobs that you don’t really know exists. I mean, there’s so many of those jobs out there. I think people know doctor, and lawyer, and accountant. And I really didn’t know what lobbying was. Actually, the very first opportunity I was given to lobby, I had taken a temporary job at a law firm in Portland. And one of the attorneys there asked if I would be interested in lobbying. And the first thing I said was yes. And then the second thing I said was what’s lobbying? And that’s kind of what started my professional career in the area of government relations.

Dr. Belisle:                             So define lobbying for us then.

Quincy Hentzel:                  So how I define lobbying is actually is being an advocate, so I spent my first 11 years in Portland, I spent lobbying for the Maine credit unions. So I was essentially an industry advocate for credit unions. And I represented the credit unions, both in Augusta, in our State House, as well as Washington DC. I worked on policy issues that would impact credit unions, which is essentially anything in the financial services realm and worked with lawmakers, to ensure that the laws, and the rules, and the regulations that they passed were actually gonna be helpful to our industry and not hurtful to our industry.

Dr. Belisle:                             That’s a long time to spend on something like credit unions. Did you have an interest in the financial field before you started doing that?

Quincy Hentzel:                  I did not have a particular interest in the financial field. I think, what happened, not so dissimilar to me moving to Maine, is I really fell in love with the credit unions. I fell in love with the credit union movement and the people who make up the credit unions. Maine is a very heavy credit union state. We have a lot of wonderful banks, as well, and we have a lot of wonderful credit unions. There seems to be plenty of room for both in the market. And I just really fell in love with the people. And I enjoyed my time there, so yeah, I think I probably stayed in that job a lot longer than I ever thought that I would, but you blink your eyes, and all of a sudden, 11 years has passed.

Dr. Belisle:                             So what is it about credit unions, in particular, that you found so fascinating?

Quincy Hentzel:                  I think it was just the people. I think credit unions are non-profit financial institutions. And I just really felt a connection to and a passion to their work. Their motto is people helping people. And that’s just something that I’ve found, over the course of my own life, as something that I’m very passionate about, as well, so it was really kind of neat to be able to work for a financial institution, that really had the same values that I have and just the people, you can imagine the people who work in an institution or in a movement, like the credit union movement, are people that I wanted to spend my time with and I wanted to be connected with. So it was really easy for me to end up spending over a decade, my first job, which is probably pretty rare, to stay at your first job that long. But I did, and I really enjoyed every second of it.

Dr. Belisle:                             Why did you decided to go to law school in the first place?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So I essentially went to law school, because my dad was a lawyer as well, and I know that’s probably not the best reason to spend ungodly sums of money to go to graduate school and to get a JD, but I don’t regret going to law school. I love school, and I would be a perpetual student if I could afford it. I’ve never really practiced law, so I guess that goes to the point that maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it was the path that I went down, and honestly, it was the path that led me to where I am today.

Dr. Belisle:                             What did you like to do when you were younger, when you were in school?

Quincy Hentzel:                  In terms of just fun activities or subject matters?

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, well when you were in high school, what was it that was most interesting to you?

Quincy Hentzel:                  That’s a really good question. You’re gonna bring me back, bring me back a few years. I always really enjoyed politics. I think high school was when I started to really pay attention to the news and pay attention to what was happening in DC and pay attention to the President. So I think I always had an interest in politics and in policy. And I think it was the policy piece that maybe led me down the path of yeah, law school may be a good decision to do that, because everyone always says, you can do so many things with a law degree. I think that is very true, and I never thought that I would actually work in policy though, which is really interesting. I actually thought I would go into corporate law. And I don’t know exactly why I felt that way, but in college and in law school, I was like, I think I could see myself in a big corporation practicing law, which now I find that actually comical, because I don’t see myself doing that at all.

Dr. Belisle:                             Was your father a corporate attorney?

Quincy Hentzel:                  He was a corporate attorney, which there you go. Now we’re piecing it all together. He was a corporate attorney, so he was a corporate attorney for US Steel, in Chicago, for many, many years. That was his background, and again, I think I just kind of thought so highly of my dad, and knew what his career path was and what his profession was, and just really saw myself following in his same footsteps.

Dr. Belisle:                             I think what you’re describing is not that unusual. I mean, my father was a doctor, and I became a doctor. And he was a family practice doctor, so I got training in family medicine, and I still practice family medicine. But it is interesting that he and I are different people, so he and I have different ways of approaching the world in general, but when you’re young, you don’t really know. You don’t know how different you are from your parent. You assume that if you do what they do, then you’ll have the success that they have, right?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Exactly.

Dr. Belisle:                             But now you are working with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, so tell me about that.

Quincy Hentzel:                  So that’s been a really great opportunity. I stepped into that role at the Portland Regional Chamber, in February, as Interim CEO, and I held that position for a few months and then was named permanent CEO in July of last year. And it’s been such a fun and eye opening experience. I’ve been closely connected to the Chamber for a long time. I served on the board of the Portland Chamber for probably nine years before I took over this role. So I was not a stranger to the Chamber or the Chamber community. But it is a drastically different thing to serve on a board of directors as opposed to actually run an organization.

Dr. Belisle:                             How many people are in your organization?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So in terms of staff, there’s only six of us. But in terms of members, we have over 1300 member organizations that are part of the Chamber.

Dr. Belisle:                             So describe your day-to-day activities.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Wow. I think that’s one of the aspects of my job that I love the most is that it’s so different every day. Yesterday, I actually didn’t leave the office once, which is really rare, but I had a pretty calm day at my desk. I was able to get some work done. I had a few meetings in the office. We had a staff meeting. We’re kind of all back from the holidays, so I kind of purposely gave myself a slow ramp-up day. But my days can be all over the place. Tomorrow, my day will start at 7:00 in the morning. I will be at the Holiday Inn by the Bay for Eggs and Issues, which is our monthly breakfast series that we have. And then from there, I think I have a litany of meetings, whether I’m meeting with a member of my board, whether I’m meeting with a member of our organization. I could be meeting with the City Manager about an issue. I could be meeting with a city counselor about an issues. Maybe there’s a stakeholder group that’s pulled together to talk about the opioid epidemic in our city. Maybe we’re talking about regional transportation issues.

I think one of the things I’ve learned … I knew this, serving on the board, but having stepped into this role, I’ve realized the reach of a chamber of commerce. When part of your mission is to promote regional prosperity, that encompasses a lot of things. And so I think by virtue of that I get the opportunity to talk about and to be engaged in a lot of the critical and really important conversations that are taking place. And those conversations lead me, so hence, I’m going back to your first question of what’s your day look like. It’s different every single day, and it’s exciting every single day. And I feel like I am helping the Chamber of Commerce in Portland have a role in helping to shape our community.

Dr. Belisle:                             You’ve mentioned the opioid epidemic, just for example, and regional transportation. Are those two of the big issues that you’re working with right now?

Quincy Hentzel:                  They’re two of the issues. If I had to prioritize the issues that we’re working on, those would probably be in our top 10 list. Our list is long, long and mighty, but those are two that are really important to our members. I think the opioid crisis, again, that’s been something that I’ve been very acutely aware of, even before I took on this role. Now that I’m in this role, I think I’ve become just extremely aware of the prevalence of that issue and the impact that it has on our members. And we see it, too, every day. Our office is on Congress Street, Congress and Elm. We’re right by the library. You can see the crisis on the streets, and it’s really heartbreaking to see that. And you can see the impact that has on businesses, whether it’s a business that happens to be, maybe, in that are of town, where there’s a lot of activity on the streets or whether it’s a business that has employees or staff that are struggling with an opioid addiction, or maybe they have a family member who has. I just think, in my last few months here, that issue has really risen to the top of our list of one that I don’t think anybody can escape the opioid crisis.

I think it touches everybody in some capacity, some much more deeply and much more personally than others. But it is there. It is real. It is getting worse. I mentioned Eggs and Issues a few minutes ago. In December of 2015, we had the Police Chief. Chief Sauschuck presented Eggs and Issues. And he talked about the opioid crisis. And it was one of the first times that the business community had had this conversation. That was in December of 2015. And it’s not gotten better. And it’s gotten worse. And that’s heartbreaking too. I think everyone’s just struggling to figure out what’s the answer to that issue.

Dr. Belisle:                             What are some of the other issues that have risen to the top for you?

Quincy Hentzel:                  So one of the big challenged that the Chamber is trying to tackle right now is just the level of growth that Portland is having right now. And I think part of it is actual growth. We are growing. We are building. I know we’re sitting in a new building right now on Middle Street. There’s been a lot of development. People are attracted to Portland. Portland’s kind of made the world stage. People know about Portland, so we have tourism’s up. And you’ve got people of all ages who are moving to the city. And from the Chamber’s perspective, that’s great. We want to see a really vibrant community. We want to see a robust economy. We want more businesses for our businesses here to serve and more consumers for our businesses to serve, as well, so we want to see that growth.

But there are people … And I understand this … that are seeing that growth and that are getting really scared and that don’t know what this growth is going to mean for them. And they know change is coming. Change is here, and there’s more change coming. And they don’t see what’s on the other side of that change. And I can appreciate that. I think change is hard for everybody in so many different aspects of our life. But I think that’s the point where we’re at right now with the business community, really wanting to see our community to grow and then having a whole other sect of our community that’s pushing back on that growth and who is just scared for what that growth means. And that’s been showing itself. We had an election last November, where Portland had two really critical and extremely devastating referendum questions on the ballot. One was dealing with rent control. One was dealing with changing the way we do zoning. Both were citizen initiated referendums. And those were initiated really from a place of fear, fear of change, and fear of rents being too high, and people thinking that perhaps rent control might help the fact that rents are too high.

And so those are issues that we’re faced with at the Chamber and that we’re trying to figure out how to deal with. We opposed both of those referendums. Both of them lost. The zoning referendum did not lose by the largest of margins, which is really interesting and scary to us. But it’s just a real time and a place right now in Portland and trying to figure out how do we balance the new development, and the new condos going up, and then new development happening on the waterfront, which is wonderful but also very different from what people were used to. There’s now a moratorium on Munjoy Hill, because people feel really nervous and scared about the demolitions that are happening and the new buildings that are going up, so we’re in this place of change, and I think, with change, comes huge opportunity. I think we will definitely get through this. I don’t worry about getting through it. But we’re trying to help have a community-wide conversation with all parties about what this change is. And can we get to the other side while maintaining all the things that we love about Portland and Portland’s authenticity, but also being able to support more business and to build more housing?

How do we get there? We’re gonna get there somehow, we hope. But how do we get there, and how do we bring everybody along to get us there?

Dr. Belisle:                             Given that you describe yourself as a potentially perpetual student, this must be a really interesting opportunity for you, because you’ve had the chance to learn about lots of different areas, like the opioid crisis, and housing, and credit unions. Do you feel yourself continually challenged?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Yes, I do. I do. I have a hard time seeing this position not challenging me at some point in the future. Maybe we’ll get there, but there’s so many issues to be tackled. And there’s always new issues coming onto the horizon. So yes, I feel like I’m constantly in a place where I’m learning something new. I’m kind of bringing myself up to speed. I’m figuring out how have we done it before? Where do we wanna go with it? How do other cities deal with it? We’re not the only city that’s grappling with these issues, so trying to help and be a part of finding the solutions. So yes, I feel like I am a perpetual student in this role, and every day, I’m tackling a new issue. And I go home, most days, and I’m like, wow, I have a pretty amazing job. It’s just very cool to be able to have a role where my primary goal is to help build and support a vibrant Portland and a vibrant Portland region.

Dr. Belisle:                             You live in Cape Elizabeth now.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I do.

Dr. Belisle:                             It sounds like you put a lot of time in at work, because it sounds like a pretty big job.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Yes.

Dr. Belisle:                             But when you’re not doing that, what do you like to do?

Quincy Hentzel:                  That’s a very good question. I have struggled, as of late, to find time for myself, because it is. We’re trying to take on a lot. We’re tackling a lot. So there is a lot of work to be done, but when I’m not working, I’m trying really hard to read, not for work. I have a lot of reading that I do as part of this position, but I’m really trying to find time to read. I do love to read. I don’t often have the time to do it, so trying to carve out the time and trying to be outside more, especially in the winter. I don’t ski, which has been challenging. Everyone tells me every single winter, you’ve gotta start skiing, because it’s really a great way to embrace the winter. But I think I’ve passed that phase in my life. I’ve tried it a few years ago. It was not pretty to strap wood slats onto my feet and send me down a mountain, but still, trying to be outside more, and trying to just enjoy … I mean Cape Elizabeth, Portland, just to walk around, to walk around the trails, to head down by the lighthouse, take my poor dog for a walk, who I probably have not been giving my dog enough attention either, so I think just making time for myself.

Dr. Belisle:                             What are some of your favorite places in Maine?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Oh, that’s a tough question, because I think Maine is honestly, probably, the most beautiful place in the world, and I pinch myself driving to work those summer mornings over the bridge and just looking at the Bay and being like, I can not believe that I live here. I can’t believe I’m crossing this bridge. I live on one side. I work on the other side. But I would say probably my most favorite place and the place that I get to spend the most time is on Casco Bay. I love the Bay. We have a sailboat. Actually, we go back and forth between having a sailboat and not having a sailboat, but we love to be on the water. We have plenty of friends with boats, and that’s the best I’ve learned is if you’re not gonna have your own boat, it’s probably better to have a friend that has a boat.

But we also have a cottage out on Long Island, Maine, so we’re on the water a lot, whether on our own boat, friends’ boats, ferry boat. And I just find the Bay one of the most beautiful, beautiful places in all of Maine and particularly those early morning ferry boat rides, when we’re out on Long Island during the week, and we’re commuting into work in the morning. It’s pretty stunning. I used to do the rush hour commute in Chicago, which looks very different than the morning commute on Casco Bay.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, it’s interesting, because we have had a lot more traffic in the last few years, leaving Portland. You probably notice on your side, going towards Cape but also going North.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right.

Dr. Belisle:                             But then I’ve talked to other people, from California, who live outside of Los Angeles, and they’re like, you do not know traffic. This is traffic, but it’s not the way that it is elsewhere.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right. Right. It’s all relative. I completely agree with that. I laugh sometimes, too, when people talk about the traffic at Portland, because you’re right. You could be stuck if you leave 15 minutes later than normal. Your commute has gone from 30 minutes to two hours, if you’re outside Chicago and other big cities. But it is all relative. And I think, for Portland, we’re a very small city, and traffic, it’s been creeping up there. And you do notice it, and if you’re driving to work, in the morning rush hour or the evening rush hour, I mean, there are a lot more cars on the road. I think that’s part of what I had mentioned, transportation issues, before, as one of our priorities at the chamber. And I think that’s something a lot of people are looking at. I mean, I know the city of Portland is looking at that too. How do we manage the traffic? How do we provide alternatives to people? Are there alternatives to driving a car?

There’s a lot of people moving to Portland who don’t wanna own a car. So to be able to provide them with other ways and other means to get to work, whether it’s people are on their bikes. There’s buses, perhaps different bus routes. Parking is always an issue, and I don’t know if the solution’s necessarily more parking, because then you just have more traffic. I mean, we do need a certain level of parking. You’re always gonna have those people who drive to work. I’m probably one of them. But giving people alternatives, and helping to mediate the amount of traffic that we see, and giving people other ways to get to and from work, I think is really important. And there are a lot of people, in groups, in organizations, that are really putting a lot of time, and effort, and energy into that right now.

Dr. Belisle:                             Yeah, and I don’t wanna diminish people’s observations about, I mean, if you’re not from Los Angeles. And it seems like there’s more traffic, that’s still a very legitimate thing.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Definitely.

Dr. Belisle:                             And we live in a city that really hasn’t been built for that. We haven’t been built for more cars. We haven’t been built for more cars leaving the city during … I’m still gonna call it rush hour. So how do we, I guess, retrofit? How do we figure that out?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Right.

Dr. Belisle:                             My last question is what has surprised you about yourself? If you were to go back, I don’t know, let’s say 20 years in your life and think about the person you were at that point. What has surprised you about who you’ve become?

Quincy Hentzel:                  Is a really good question. Gosh, thinking back to my 20 year old self, I think my level of resilience is much more than I ever thought. We all go through things in our life, and we all go through changes, and struggles, and challenges. And I feel like I’ve gone through a lot, probably not dissimilar from any people. You go through a lot of ups and downs. And I think I’m pretty pleasantly surprised at my resiliency. Sitting as a high school or a college student, where I had gone through nothing really difficult, or bad, or challenges, and to see what I’ve gone through up until today, I feel like I weathered it pretty well. And I consistently surprise myself, as to what I can get through. When you’re facing it head-on, you’re thinking, I’m never gonna survive this. I’m never gonna make it through this. And then you do make it through it. And you’re stronger. And you’re better. And you’ve learned a lot, so yeah, I think the resiliency piece. If I had to look back the last 20 years, I’ve weathered the storm okay.

Dr. Belisle:                             Is there any piece of advice that you would give yourself, if you were able to sit down and say, hey Quincy of the 20’s, this is what I’d like to tell you.

Quincy Hentzel:                  I would definitely say to be more confident. I think I’m fairly confident now, in my older age, but my 20 year old self, probably not so much. And I think confidence is just such a wonderful and important trait to have. I think confidence, it can get you through some really difficult situations. It helps to build trust in other people. And I probably was a lot less confident as my 20 year old stuff than I am right now. And that’s probably advice I would give any 20 year old person out there is just be confident. Carry yourself with confidence, and that will take you so far in life.

Dr. Belisle:                             I’ve been speaking with Quincy Hentzel, who has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, since July of 2017. Thank you for all the good work you’re doing and for coming in today.

Quincy Hentzel:                  Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Dr. Belisle:                             Paul Golding is the Executive Director of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency, located in Scarborough. He has served in a number of senior roles in the public health advocacy, higher education, and social services fields. Alexandra Sagov has a Masters in Social Work, and has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. She has been with family hope since 2017. Thank you for coming in today.

Alex S.:                                      Thank you for having us.

Paul Golding:                       Thanks for having us.

Dr. Belisle:                             Paul, I’ll start with you. You came to the United States in 1990, after getting your education and your early background in the United Kingdom. Why the United States?

Paul Golding:                       Why not? Let’s see. In 1989, I finished up a long-term contract in higher education, and I’ve worked doing a computer project for a library. And I was offered a chance to come to Seattle and set up a database for a biomedical research company. And so that gave me the opportunity to get a green card. But it took a little while, because bureaucracy. And by the time I got through all the necessary hoops, that startup company had gone under. But I got a green card out of the deal, and I went to the embassy. And they said, “Well, you got a green card. Find a job.” So it was a very different time. Anyway, so I took a job with the American Lung Association doing computer and database work, and then slowly evolved up the food chain to do marketing, development, and also some other roles, and then went into higher education with the University of Washington, Portland State, took a trip out to Boston looking for work, came up to Portland, fell in love with it, and have been here pretty much ever since.

So I took a job then with Day One, an adolescent substance abuse agency. I worked there for a while, then the Center for Grieving Children, then Stepping Stones. It used to be called Maine Adoption Placement Services, and most recently, landed at Family Hope, so yeah.

Dr. Belisle:                             How about you, Alexandra? You’re originally from the Boston area?

Alex S.:                                      Yep, I grew up in Boston, and I came to Maine. My mother has had a summer home in Kennebunk for about, gosh, now it’s 37 years. And when she retired up here, I’m a single mom, and so my wonderful son and I came up here. And I spent a year as a volunteer in service to America with the United Way of York County. And that really gave me an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to be a social worker, both clinically and community oriented. So I went to the University of New England and got my Masters degree. And I’ve been here ever since.

Dr. Belisle:                             The work that you’re doing with Family Hope is very interesting and very necessary, also difficult. And the people that are coming in for services generally have complicated situations that you’re working with. So you’ve chosen to frame this as Family Hope. How are you able to continue to have that sense of hope in the midst of … Well, we’ll start with you Alexandra. Yeah?

Alex S.:                                      I’ve always believed that, no matter how difficult a situation is and no matter how small you can move forward, it can always get better. The people who come to us are obviously in very difficult situations, but I find that even just having a place to come, to feel like you’re working with a seasoned clinician who really cares, right away, it makes them feel better. And my goal, when I’m working with people, is I don’t let them out the door unless they feel hopeful. And that’s really my goal. And in all the people that I’ve worked with, I’ve been overwhelmed by the gratitude and also the ability to make some changes, to connect people with services, to help them make difficult decisions, whether it’s with how they’re gonna structure their will, what they can and can’t control, and also if it’s about grieving, the child they wish they had versus the one they do. So it’s an extraordinary organization, and it’s a mental health service that has never existed in the history of mental health. And so it’s a concept that I think we’re presenting to society, that might take a while for people to actually grasp, that this can exist. So it’s very rewarding and exciting.

Paul Golding:                       Well, Alex tells exactly what we do. How we came into existence, our founder, Donna Betts, she went through this, as a parent of an adult. Her adult son was mentally ill, and she struggled to find the correct diagnosis for him, to get services in place, and because of the various challenges that we have, here in Maine, and we do it throughout the United States, in diagnosis, and accessing services, and working with adult onset mental illness, she found it extremely frustrating. And unfortunately, her son died to suicide. And so to try and make sense of that truly horrific situation, she founded Family Hope. And it was incorporated in 2012, and after five years at the helm, she stepped down and is now doing something else with her life. And so Alex and I represent, to some extent, the next wave of people and come in and pick it up.

It was an agency that was in good shape. We inherited it. And it had been in a testing and development stage. I mean, it was a strong program, and now, we feel like we’re the next wave of that, as we try to expand services, get the word out about who we are and what we do. And we’ve seen, I think, in the last year, we saw an eight-fold increase in the number of families that we serve, which of course, put pressure on us to find the funding, because we don’t charge for services, because we don’t need people who are struggling to navigate a poor city and services anyway, to then have to struggle to find the resources to access what we do.

So that’s how we came into existence, and so the next wave for us is to expand our board, expand our capacity to support the increase in services that we’re seeing, and try and break down the stigma associated with mental health, advocate for a greater understanding of it, work with families to navigate services, both for the identified patient … And the thing that Alex talks about, what is unique, I think, to Family Hope, is that we start by trying to address it on a family level. And the view that I say is if properly supported, families are then the natural supports of the mentally ill person, and if properly supported and educated, family members can not only not do the wrong thing when they’ve got someone but do the right thing.

And so the affected others, the families, they need the support, in order to best support their loved ones, because we’re dealing with a chronic situation. We’re not dealing with an acute illness, by and large. We’re dealing with people that have chronic mental health problems, so once that impacts a family system, it’s a permanent change, and families are very good at dealing with short-term crises. And they focus on the loved one. They may, in fact, get them services, and they begin to do better. But it’s impacted the family in a way that they now need support going forward. And so we are unique, in that sense, at least here in the States. It’s predicated on some good research that came out of Canada, and it’s embottled it. It waxes and wanes in Britain, depending on various government fundings for those kinds of services. But it’s the notion that we should support the family, not just the patient.

And so that means, of course, that every phone call is different. Every family situation is different. And one of the things that we’re trying to do at Family Hope, with the model that we inherited and the one that we’re developing is not to replicate the kinds of cultures that many social service agencies have, where the front-line staff get burned out. So you work closely with one family, from soup to nuts, and then move on. And we try not to have a heavy caseload, where you’re not doing very much for anyone. You’re just trying to keep things going for an hour a week, indefinitely. We try and work closely with the family until, as Alex says, suffering is reduced and relieved, and people feel hopeful.

And a lot of that is making referrals and suggestions, and connecting people to supports in the communities, and hearing back from whether that works or not, and then trying some other stuff, and then moving forward. So it’s intensive, but it’s not long-term. I mean, many of the social service agencies that we have here in town, they’ll open a client. And that client may be on their books for years, because great people are doing great work with them, but the family’s not being supported. They’re not getting connected to other resources. And so they’re moving them an inch at a time, and we’re trying to move people a mile very fast, I would say.

Dr. Belisle:                             I think about the need that we have in the state and really, across the country, maybe across the world. I just happen to know about our own state. And I wonder how possible it is to help people in this intensive way, in large numbers.

Alex S.:                                      So one of the goals at Family Hope, what we’d eventually love, is to have this in every county. One of the unique ways in which we operate is they are welcome to come to the office and meet with us. I can meet them in the community. I can go to their homes. And I think one of the struggles and something that we wanna look at and would be great, if we could get funding, is to really be able to quantitatively and qualitatively be able to really document and tie it into how does this help, right? And so anecdotally, everybody that we talk to, I mean, not one person has ever said, oh that’s a terrible idea.

And so one of the things that Paul and I are looking at are, what are the barriers, right, that people are dealing with, that aren’t being addressed? And so when you have adults, and this is true I think in every state here, is that you have the right to be mentally ill. That’s a fact. And that’s often something that’s very painful for parents to recognize, that they don’t have any rights to information, to doctors, and so we have families who are literally help hostage for … I have one case … eight years, over 30, with probably the most serious case of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve ever seen, I mean really. And so one of the things that I was struggling to try to do, because he can’t leave the house, is how am I gonna get a clinician to come in and have eyes on him and perhaps even be able to medicate him enough, so that his anxiety decreases? He can then go out into the community and get Maine Care and get on an Act Team, which is an intensive outpatient treatment.

And so I did talk to some psychiatrists, and I said, okay, what would it take, right, to be able to get you into that house? And it was money, because these people don’t have insurance. They wouldn’t be able to bill for their time there, and then if they had to travel. And so what I said to them is, what if I got a grant that would actually pay you to do that? And would you also be willing to do it on a sliding scale? So these are the kinds of concepts, right, they’re not out there in any way, shape, or form. I’m very excited and also a little fearful that people won’t get the value of it. And what we’re asking, right, is for them to suspend disbelief, to invest in it, and then see what the results are. So that’s an example of how we’re looking to address barriers that haven’t been addressed before.

Paul Golding:                       And so I think, as Alex says, you use the data and the experience of your clients, to try and bring about systemic shift in thinking. Providers are there. When I go out and talk to case managers and clinicians about who we are and what we do, the phone rings off the hook. I make a presentation, and my phone is ringing as I leave the meeting, people trying to access that, because they, themselves, know that I have a family. If you could just spend a few hours with them, that would help my client tremendously. So there’s a lot of buy-in at the executive level, when I go out and make presentations to various providers around town. They get it. But the traction to bring those services in-house really comes from front-line staff, front-line staff who are working with the clients. So those are the people that we try and go and educate.

Now the challenge, of course, is the more the phones ring, the more expensive it gets. And so funding is always a challenge. We have a fundraiser next week at the West Inn, and we hope that people will come and enjoy the night. We write grants. We do appeals. We have a board doing all those things. So we’re just like every other non-profit, but our view, I think, in the long-run, is that we’ll be able to take the quantitative and qualitative experience that we have and translate that into policy and to try and get the Department of Health and Human Services, or other providers, to partner with us and to find ways to ultimately bring about that systemic change. And I think that’ll come. I have faith in that, because I worked at the Center for Grieving Children for many years. And that was a new idea. That idea came along for peer support for kids.

This center here in Portland was the third such one in the country. There’s now over 350 such centers around the country. There’s a National Alliance. I had the distinct honor of being the president of that for a while. And one of the things that we used to hear when we get together for conferences and stuff was that we needed big funding in order to make that happen. And the New York Life Foundation got behind bereavement. There’s an organization that makes a lot of money, and many of their employees were tired of going out and giving checks to founders after being a horrible loss and not knowing how to better help those families. So the New York Life Foundation got behind the National Alliance.

We’re looking for that kind of, both here in Maine and on the national scene, looking for someone, some industry partner perhaps, who sees that. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies can take a step back and say, look it’s not just medication. Medication’s an important part of this. If psychiatrists and psychologists can step back and say, it’s not just our corner, I mean, I think that will come. I think that will come in America. And then when it happens, it’ll happen fast, and it’ll happen big. But that’s a big part of what we’re doing. We’re just trying, right now, to replicate the Alex’s of the world in every county here in Maine. And so we don’t need millions of dollars to do that. We need thousands of dollars to do that. But we always have our eye on the fact that we have something that’s unique here. It’s eminently knowable, eminently replicable, easily trainable. So I think, from that point of view, it will come.

And it’s to Donna’s credit, our founder, that she put something together that has that potential. And now we’ve gotta put our foot on the gas, bring in more money, get more people, and it will catch fire. I mean, I genuinely believe that. We have a passionate board. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of need. So if we can do things differently and it works, the word will get around.

Alex S.:                                      I think there are some natural partnerships that we’re actually having trouble solidifying. And I’m not exactly sure why. So for example, adult services at DHS, adult protective services, I spoke to somebody there. And she was, I can’t believe we don’t know about you. This would be a great fit. But yet the referrals haven’t come in. One of the things that I will do with a family, where there’s a potential for either violence or suicide is I will call Crisis with the family, and I will also call the local police department. And I’ll say, listen, I wanna give you a heads up. We’re not in an eminent situation, but if we call you, I want you to be able to immediately go and know whether this person is aggressive, because sometimes the relationships with law enforcement and mental healthy have gone awry, although there is a lot of movement towards that.

And so I had a recent exchange with the York County Sheriff Department, and they hadn’t heard of us. And so what I liked about it was they invited us to come and speak, but what’s difficult is because when you’re a parent of an adult, if I was a therapist of that identified child, I can’t give you any information. And so I have to imagine that there are people that are serving the clients. And when I was a case manager, I would get calls from hysterical parents. I can listen, but I can’t respond. That would be a perfect opportunity, or a police officer that was out on a scene to say, here’s Family Hope’s card. Call them. And I have yet to have an experience where a family has come that we have not gotten them into a better place. So that’s my biggest concern is about how are we not partnering? How are we not becoming part of the fold?

Paul Golding:                       But an interest into that point, just last week, I was part of a panel discussion that South Portland Police Department put on, and they had people from the Crisis Team, from Opportunity Alliance, and someone from NAMI, who’s people we partner with, and the behavior health professional, Dana, who goes out with the police on those calls. And so Portland has it. Westbrook has it. South Portland has it. And that’s very much on the cutting edge. That’s not typical for Maine police departments, and it’s not typical around the country. But there’s something is beginning to happen. So as Alex said, the other day when she dealt with that family, said, that’s great. What’s cool about that is we can call their police chief or their sheriff, have them talk to their peer, at the Police Chief of South Portland. They will say, here’s how we’re doing it. Here’s why we do it that way. Again, it’s incremental. That’s great. What I would love is it’s great when you do it piecemeal like that, but I would love that that be part of the curriculum of the Criminal Justice Academy … When I worked at Day One, one of our colleagues from one of our programs was on the curricula there to talk about substance abuse … to get people to make referrals to the treatment network and into Juvenile Drug Court.

Because police officers have a lot of things going through their mind when they roll up on any scene, whether it’s an accident or a crisis, but the more it’s part of their thinking of diverting people into treatment, the better it is, so it’s common, but you can tell we’re impatient. [crosstalk 00:50:08].

Dr. Belisle:                             I don’t blame you for your impatience, because I feel the same way. I mean, I’m seeing more rather than less violence directed towards self and other, with people who are traumatized, with people who are grieving, with people who have some sort of biologic mental illness. And it can’t come fast enough, from my standpoint, as a doctor, as a member, as a member of the community. And we have not solved this problem. And I don’t know what we’re waiting for.

Alex S.:                                      Money, really.

Paul Golding:                       Well, I mean, that’s always the easiest answer. And I’m not going to disagree. If someone wants to come down with a huge bag of money, we’ll make a huge difference. But I also worked in public higher education for many, many years. And that was the joke there. We used to sit around the room. And of course, I worked in development, because we didn’t have enough money. But it was this idea it was the last thing in America that people would throw lots of money at in the vague hope that it would change things. So resource is important, but will is incredible … and smart thinking and joined up thinking and resolve to make changes. I mean, if you look at the recent issue around the gun debate, which is a natural discussion to look at … So you’ve got people on one side of the argument, they’re looking at the constitutionality of it. On the other half, they’re looking at access to weaponry and the scale of carnage that can be done by weapons. And then, it just comes polarized, and then it goes away. It becomes a stalemate.

And the thing that’s interesting to me there is whether the issue’s around who accesses guns and stuff, there has to be a point where the country transcends that and says, we have to break out of what we’ve been doing. And I do feel, I do feel that potential is there in the mental health field. Some of it is coming out of the opioid crisis, that people have realized, how did we get to this point, where we have an incredible number of deaths here in Maine? How did we get to it? How do we get out of it? And suddenly, people change the way they think. And then that leverage can happen. So when it comes back to our mission, I mean, to have three police departments, in fairly close proximity, have behavior health work, to go out on those kinds of calls, and to connect to services, and to hold community forums is great. How do we do that on a state-wide level? How do we join up? Well, it would be great if we had a Governor that thought about things in those terms, if we had a Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, who thought about it in those terms, rather than just purely in budgetary terms.

And I’ll give you a little editorial. There is a wonderful study being funded by the Lunder Foundation, looking at a similar program, not the same, but a similar program to ours, that Maine Behavioral Health is doing, in which they are looking at how do those support families of folks. And they’re tracking all the reduced costs in medication, in hospitalizations, and incarcerations, and stuff. And the Department of Health and Human Services has a great interest in what the outcome of that data is. There are specific questions, as I was given to understand is, will these people be off welfare. Will these people go back to work? If we support the families of the mentally ill people, will those mentally ill people go back to work? Will they get off welfare?

And that’s an interesting question, but it’s one question. And I think it’s not the most interesting. And I think it tells you what the agenda is. So there has to be a change in values too. And one in five, or one in four people are gonna experience mental health issues in their life, here in Maine, across the country, so we have to think about it differently. We have to view it differently. And many, many people are mentally ill and live fully functional lives. They just have to take their medication, got to treatment. Alex can talk about all that stuff, but yeah, we have to have a shift in values. And that will come. No one talked about childhood bereavement 30 years ago. Now, it’s a commonplace thing, when the kids experience bereavement differently. Mental health will be dealt with differently. It will come. I mean, it’s a cool country, because it reinvents itself every generation. It just needs to pick that as a priority and get on it. That’s my soapbox right there.

Alex S.:                                      Another thought that I had was Portland, wen I first came here, the diversity level was zero. And now we have a huge refugee population. Actually, I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, every Wednesday, and it’s 90% African or immigrant children. And I also had a conversation with a friend, who they’re refugees, and they’re a first break schizophrenia. And I thought, here’s another area, where culturally, language-wise, so these are the kinds of things. Paul and I are not exactly sure where we need to have this conversation. We know that we can write grants. We know who natural partners may be. And always in organizational training, especially in non-profit, when it’s connected to budgets and political ideas. I mean, and I am impatient. I am not a process person. I am a vision person. And so I’m just brimming with hope and ideas, and yet, I’m hoping that us talking about it today, maybe it will really inspire people to say, you know what? These are great ideas. And it’s not just about money. It’s about support. It’s about when you’re at church or when you’re at a coffee shop.

I mean, if I overhear people in a restaurant, that are talking about this stuff, I will approach them and say, I’m sorry for overhearing it, but I hear your pain. And I just want you to know. I mean, even in a dentist the other day, somebody asked me what I did. And I said, do you know of anybody, where this might be appropriate? And so even just that, even just being able to refer your own friends to this, I think the more stories and the more people that we’re able to touch and the more opportunities we’re able to tell real stories, my job is to get you where your heart is, to imagine, like you said, I’m a mother. I’m a citizen. I mean, I believe that that’s really what motivates people, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats. We’re parents. We’re neighbors. And this is the Love Show, and I do believe that love is really what keeps us motivated.

Dr. Belisle:                             I’ve been speaking with Paul Golding, who’s the Executive Directory of Family Hope and also with Alexandra Segav, who’s been with Family Hope, since 2017 and as a social worker. I really believe in the work that you’re doing. So I hope that people who are listening are going to ponder how they might be able to help out with this, because I think that this is really the time. And I appreciate all the efforts that you are putting forth.

Alex S.:                                      Thank you so much, Lisa. I so much appreciate it.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by grownupgirl.com, where you can get personalized guidance and encouragement for growing a simple yet vibrant life through free advice, workshops, and mentoring programs with local experts. You deserve to shine. Go to grownupgirl.com now to learn about available programs and classes designed just for you in the Portland area.

Dr. Belisle:                             You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show 342. Our guests have included Quincy Hentzel, Paul Golding, and Alexandra Sagov. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radi” Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter, as Dr. Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me, and may you have a bountiful life.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #341: Carol Schoneberg and Anne Heros

Speaker 1:                                 You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios at Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor in chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 341 airing for the first time on Sunday April 1st, 2018. Today we speak Carol Schoneberg who has worked as a hospice educator in Maine for the past 25 years. Anne Heros is the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization providing support to grieving children, young adults, teenagers and families. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaie.com.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Carol Schoneberg has been a hospice educator in Maine since 1992. She has served as an end of life educator, bereavement services manager and grief counselor at Hospice of Southern Maine, Maine’s only freestanding not for profit hospice since its inception in 2004. Thanks for coming in today.

Carol S.:                                   Happy to be here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              The work that you do is what many would consider to be difficult and yet it’s your chosen field.

Carol S.:                                   It is.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Tell me about that.

Carol S.:                                   Well one of the things I hear often is, “How could you do that? It must be so depressing.” And if I found it depressing, I could never do it and I couldn’t have done it for this long. It’s often sad, but there’s a big difference and it’s very … for me, extremely meaningful. It’s always been good to help me prioritize what I think is important in life and it gives me joy to do this work, which sounds strange to a lot of people.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How did you make the decision that this would be your focus in your life?

Carol S.:                                   I think it found me. I really feel … I came to feel that it was a calling and I often feel I’m sort of embarrassed to say that. It seems sort of pretentious in a way, but I realize looking back over my life that there were things that happened, starting around five years old and throughout my life that were leading me in this direction. I was always the person in my family, in my circle of friends that for whatever reason was comfortable. It wasn’t something I turned away from. I had a friend in San Francisco when I was in my early 20’s who took his life. He jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and I remember sitting around at the funeral with my friends, my peers, people my age and how stunned we all were, and it was for many of us our first experience with the death of a friend. And there was something about it that really stayed with me in the sense of grief and how people didn’t wanna talk about it.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Why don’t people want to talk about grief?

Carol S.:                                   It’s amazing how many of my clients will tell me they think grief is negative and they don’t wanna talk about something negative. They think dying is negative and part of my role is I hope to be able to help people see that grief is neither positive or negative. It’s grief. It’s a true emotion that is central in our lives. It happens to everybody and it’s painful. So of course we naturally wanna turn away from anything that’s painful and when someone has experienced maybe for the first time, the death of a central person in their life, they have never known a pain like that before.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              When you say that it’s something that brings you joy, tell me a little bit about that, because it’s easy to make assumptions as to how we would all feel in your situation.

Carol S.:                                   Right, right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              But you have your own experience of it.

Carol S.:                                   Right. It’s not joy-like, the joy I felt when I found out when I was gonna have children or the joy I felt when my grandchildren were born. It’s a kind of joy in witnessing … for one thing, witnessing people and the resiliency that we are all capable of as human beings. So when I see a bereavement client who I witnessed them going through their journey and then at a certain point, our time together comes to an end. And then I might run into them in the grocery store or I run into them somewhere and they look full and alive and they’re living their life and I know how deep their grief was and how the things that we tend to say at the beginning of our grief. Things like, “I don’t care if I go on or not. I don’t care if I wake up or not. My life will never be the same.” Which it won’t, that’s a true statement but that doesn’t mean it has to be a pejorative statement and so seeing this capacity for resiliency is I think part of why I do the work. And in working with a family where someone’s dying and meeting with them maybe before they decide to come on to hospice, I sometimes do informational visits for families.

It’s inspiring to meet with a family that is able to speak openly about what’s happening and typically it’s because the patient is willing to go there and so that is very fulfilling to work with that family. And then to see a family where they start off not able to talk about it but it’s still coming, death is still coming. They sign on to hospice and if they have enough time between when they sign on and when the person dies, sometimes there’s a transformation that happens and a family might be able to have healing that they didn’t have before or have conversations that they didn’t have before. And often it’s brought about because the members of the hospice team social worker, the nurses, everyone that’s involved, chaplains, volunteers, they can help in that process of gently guiding someone to a point where they can make that change. So that’s very satisfying and fulfilling to see that happen.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              How does the team help to guide that process?

Carol S.:                                   Well when somebody signs on to hospice, they are saying that they want this interdisciplinary approach to care and it means that they will let a hospice nurse come in, hospice social worker, hospice aid, chaplain, volunteers, and we also have medical directors that work closely with their doctor. So every member of that team is … we like to think of everyone’s on the same level, no ones job is more important than the other and each person as they’re in there working with the patient and family, they are having their impressions of what’s happening. It might be that the patient feels most comfortable with aid and they might really open up to them in maybe a way that they’ve not opened up to their family or to anyone else. And they might talk about their fears or their wishes of what they wish could happen before they die and because everyone on the team is educated, trained on end of life care, they’re tuned in to listening for these that people might say that someone else might miss. So it might be to say, “Tell me more about that.” And then it might be to say, “Is this something you’ve talked with the social worker about because she might be able to help you have these conversations with your family.”

So it’s that kind of everybody working together, everybody having their eyes and ears open and coming together to see how can we better serve this family, how can we help them the most. So there’ve been studies done that have shown that if someone can be on hospice for a minimum of 60 days, that it can make a great difference in the way they die and the way the family’s able to have some possibility of healing and it also makes a difference in their bereavement.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              As someone who has referred patients to hospice before, it is always tricky because there’s no way to accurately determine when someone is going to die. It’s always just a best guess.

Carol S.:                                   Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it’s un … It’s always … It always feels unfortunate to me when a patient just barely gets into hospice and then they pass away.

Carol S.:                                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because it feels as if it were a missed opportunity.

Carol S.:                                   Yes, there was when that happens. You know lots of times we get a patient sort of the 11th hour and there’s not a lot that can be done when you get a patient who … maybe you have them the last day of their life. Some people end up at the Gosnell House four hours before they die and often I will hear in bereavement or in a support group or individual grief counseling, “I wish we would’ve come to hospice sooner. I wish we would’ve known about it sooner.” And I would agree with you yes, it’s very hard to prognosticate a terminal illness when somebody … how much time they have left and yet you probably know, it’s the question everybody that’s been told they have a terminal illness, “How much time do I have?” When a hospice nurse gets to the house the first time, “How much time do you think he has?” It’s that piece that most people wanna know, not everybody, some people, “Don’t tell me. I don’t wanna know.”

I’m a big believer that for instance, when somebody is told they have a stage four cancer and I would say cancer is an illness that as a relative term, it’s a bit easier to prognosticate because of the stages and typically what is seen. I would hope we would reach a point some day and I hope it’s while I’m still here to see it when a physician and an oncologist would have that conversation with their patient when their cancer becomes stage four, to introduce hospice, “Here’s what it is, let’s talk about. Would you like to meet with somebody who could tell you about it. You’re not ready for hospice now and I hope it’s going be a long time before you are, but I …” This would be the words of the oncologist, “But I’ve learned that educating about it sooner makes it easier for when the time comes to access it. You’ll already know what it is. You know the difference it can make at the end of life for you and your family.”

So I’d like to see that become routine and I would say to all doctors, if your gut is telling you this person has a prognosis of probably six months or less, or even if you look at this person and you think, “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they’ve died in the coming year.” That’s the time for a hospice referral and use us. Use hospice professionals to help you have language to do that, to be able to have somebody that could come in and talk to that patient, that family if they’re open to it. Once again, that piece of people coming sooner rather than later is really important, very, very important.

The other thing I’m thinking of is there’ve also been some studies done to show the negative impact of over-prognosticating, of giving false hope and the studies point to it is of no benefit and in fact, what I see in my work as a grief counselor, is at least people really angry. If a doctor says, “Because it’s hard to say.”, and maybe they say it because they’re uncomfortable. They say, “Well, I don’t know. It could be two weeks, it could be a year.” So what that family and patient holds on to of course, is the year and then when death comes three weeks later, they are stunned as people are anyhow when they lose someone they love. But they’re angry, they feel lied to and that is a hurdle for them to overcome in their grieving process before they can even begin to focus on their grief.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Because death has for many people, such a negative connotation, it is something that many people feel uncomfortable talking about at all.

Carol S.:                                   Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And even if you are not someone who has a family member in hospice, you may not know what to say to be supportive of a family that’s dealing with the possibility of loss. What type of language do you suggest that people use? What are things that can be said that individuals or families might find helpful?

Carol S.:                                   So if I heard you correctly, you’re talking about the person who maybe they have a friend or a family member or somebody who-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yeah.

Carol S.:                                   They’ve heard is terminally ill. The thing that we all … that I hope people will do is to say something to acknowledge in some way. For people who are facing the end of their life, one of the common things they feel is a sense of abandonment by … often by the medical community and by the people who love them, who they are hoping will check in or be around. It might be to say, “I don’t really know what to say or do, but I know that I wanna support you and I wanna be with you.” That’s a huge thing. It might be to say, “Is there something I could do to help you at this time?” Depending on where the person is in their dying process, if they’re on hospice, it might to say, “Are there … Is there a project that I could do to help you to complete that might be meaningful for you?” Not to be afraid, which is hard to do to talk about it, because we talk about death, doesn’t make it come any sooner and that’s often what I … when I’m doing education in the community about hospice, that’s what I’ll say. When I’m meeting with a new hospice family, I always say that.

It’s about being present to someone, much more than any clever words we might say and there are ways that we let somebody know that we’re present with them. It might be a touch, it might be a hug if they want it and just to say, “I’m gonna … I’ll be here for you throughout this journey, however long it may be.”

Dr. Lisa B.:                              There are for some people unresolved issues.

Carol S.:                                   Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I guess you’re laughing and smiling ’cause maybe it’s all people have some level of unresolved issue.

Carol S.:                                   I think so. I do. Some people very little. Some people, they live their life in that wonderful way of saying what they feel in the moment and saying I love you and saying I’m sorry when they’re sorry, doing those things as they go through life, and they’re just maybe a family where they’re just more open. We say in the hospice the easy part is dealing with the body, the physical body, the pain and symptoms that we … our hospice people are very skilled at. The difficult part is typically family dynamics. If you have five adult children, rarely are all five on the same page. They have five different relationships to the one who’s dying, they don’t all have the same relationship. Some may have a particular ease in being present to death, others not at all. Some wanna talk about it, some don’t and every bit of that family’s dynamics from day one, are gonna carry into the dying process. We say in hospice we tend to die the way we’ve lived, which is what we see. Somebody who’s been open and shares everything, they’re gonna be open and sharing they’re dying, talking about how they’re feeling, and the opposite is true and the same is true of grief. We only are who we are. We can only manifest in general, unless we have a transformation in that way.

So that family dynamics piece is really tough and that’s where hospice can be very helpful as well. Hospice doesn’t come in and tell people what to do or what to feel, but once again, that sense of is there that something that can be done to help people be able to heal their relationships before they die. Sometimes it happens and it’s very wonderful. Sometimes it happens 10 minutes before death. Sometimes it takes place over the weeks and months and sometimes it never happens. We have had patients who might have a loved one who they’ve been estranged from, maybe an adult child estranged 20, 30 years and as the social worker is exploring this piece of their story, they might ask them, “Would you like me to try to locate your daughter?” And typically the person that says this is what I’m struggling with will say, “Yes.” They might not, but often they say yes, and sometimes the team is able to track down, locate the person with the help of the internet and everything else we have today and sometimes the person is … when they’re called and said, “Your mother has given us permission to call. She’s a hospice patient. She’s very near the end of her life and she would very much like to see you.”

Sometimes the person says no, just … and it’s not ours to judge. Whatever the wounds were may be too great for that person to be able to overcome and some people have said yes and have come from great distances. Had a kind of reconciliation and healing and very soon after that, maybe within minutes or hours, days, the person lets go and they can die peacefully.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Is there a difference between the way that younger people in … who are dying in hospice and older people who are dying in hospice experience that process?

Carol S.:                                   In some ways no, in that it’s more about our type and nature than it is our age. So I see some people who are in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s who are able to touch everyone around them, inspire everyone around them as they go through their dying, and I see younger people who are able to do that and those who may not be able to. One of the things when we have a younger patient and we don’t have pediatric hospice, so our patients are generally over the age of 18. We have very, very over our 10 years of the hospice house being open, the Gosnell House in Scarborough, very few, handful of patients I would say in their 20’s and of course, what we see more often with a young patient, is often their parents are living. So that’s a loss that any parent hopes they never have to hear about or deal with and as staff, it has a different impact when there’s a mother or father who is … they are in that room with a person who’s dying, and of course, we witness it in the home as well. So I don’t know if that responds exactly to your question, but those are some of the things we see regarding the ages of people who are dying.

There’s always the person who’s dying, who their approach because it’s their nature is why me and then there’s the person who’s dying who says, “Why not me? It’s gonna happen some day.” So neither one of those approaches is right or wrong but it is definitely a very powerful rich experience as a hospice worker with that person who is why not me, and also who is able to share their dying process. That’s how we learn, I certainly learned most of what I feel I know or understand through the people I’ve worked with.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Have you found that people are very similar in the way that they die or that they are very different in the way that they die?

Carol S.:                                   I think they’re quite different. Some of the deaths we see are very peaceful, very quiet. A person might just sort of slowly shut down and obviously this type of a death is really relative term easy, but it is the least painful in a way for a family to witness and watch. We all hope for a peaceful death for ourselves, for the people we love. Some people have what I would think of as a more traumatic dying experience based on their illness. They might have more things that as the body gets near death, whether it’s more symptoms that manifest, some symptoms that might be very distressing for a family to witness. Hospice does everything it can to help manage and control those symptoms. The nurse will also help prepare a family if they have a particular type, lets say of cancer that this could occur, so that they might not be as shocked. We see people who are fighting death until their last breath I would say and people who have made peace and have if will, acquiesce to death. We see people who might have a smile on their face when they die, who look beautiful and peaceful. They might even have a glow and others that have been a much harder death.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What do you think it is that people fear most about dying? I-

Carol S.:                                   Fear of the unknown.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              That’s pretty straightforward.

Carol S.:                                   That’s … If I had to just … If I just had to reduce it to one sentence. There’s a difference too between fear and sadness. I think the fear … Largely, I always think of Woody Allen who said, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t wanna be there when it happens.” And I think there’s so much truth to that. Many people, if I have an opportunity to ask them, “What’s the scariest part about all of this for you?” Typically, what people say is fear of dying in pain, fear of dying alone and fear of being a burden to the people I love. Those are the kinda universal pieces that people talk about with fear. The other thing that a dying person is … once they get that terminal diagnosis, no matter how much time they have left that I find people wrestle with is sadness of leaving behind the people they love. It always comes down to that and people who might say, “I can do this, but I can’t imagine leaving my children.”

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Are there ways that hospice supports families once an individual has died?

Carol S.:                                   Yes. Hospice … One of the things that distinguishes hospice care from a regular medical model of care is the families, the unit of care. So we very much are there to provide care and support to the patient and the family. After the patient dies, we provide bereavement support to the family, anyone who wants it in the family for one year following a death. It’s part of the Medicare guidelines and regulations. So any hospice program in the country is required to offer bereavement support. What that support looks like varies widely from program to program. We’re very proud of our bereavement program in that we offer individual grief counseling during that year. We have between eight and ten, eight week support groups every year that are run for an hour and a half each week for eight weeks. They’re generic groups, so anyone over the age of 18 who has lost a central person in their life can attend. It’s open to the community as well and our individual grief counseling is open to the community as well. So it’s no cost.

Sometimes a doctor’s office will call me and say, “I met with one of my patients today and his wife died some months ago and he was crying and is really struggling with that, somebody that you could see.” And then yes, we will and we do. Not everybody wants bereavement support. We also … Part of our services are we do a monthly mailing with some bereavement literature that we mail every other month and with that packet, they also get notices of all the groups that are happening. When I was saying not everyone wants … formalized professional support, we know that around 40 to 50% of people will heal well on their own and typically it’s the person who has a strong support system, really important. You might be connected, family, friends, workplace, faith community and somebody who is the person who tends to approach their grief rather than avoid it.

And there are people that … A very small percentage of people might end up having what we call a complicated grief, where they might be best served working with someone who specialized just in complicated grief to help them be able to … It’s a … I think a simple way of thinking of it is somebody who is … gets extremely stuck in their grief process and isn’t able to really begin to move forward in their grief, and in my view, our grief doesn’t go anywhere. It just hangs out, whether it’s for a few months or 50 years, an unreconciled grief or a grief that one isn’t able to actually mourn, does not diminish and it has a really negative impact on our lives. I think of it as kind of a life half lived.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’ve learned a lot from our conversation today and I appreciate your coming in and sharing your insights and also all the work that you have been doing for decades. Really … I’ve been speaking with Carol Schoneberg who has been a hospice educator in Maine since 1992. She has served as an end of life educator, bereavement services manager and grief counselor at Hospice of Southern Maine, Maine’s only freestanding, not for profit hospice since its inception in 2004. Thanks for coming in today.

Carol S.:                                   You’re welcome.

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Dr. Lisa B.:                              Anne Heros serves as the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization that serves grieving children, teenagers, families and young adults with peer support, outreach and education. Thank you for coming in again.

Anne Heros:                          Thank you. Good to be here.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You’ve now been doing this for … I guess this is your 31st year. Right? With the Center for-

Anne Heros:                          The center’s 31st year.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Yes.

Anne Heros:                          They started in 89 … or sorry, 87. I’m thinking of when I came to the United States. Sorry, 87 is when the center started and our founder, Bill Hemmens started it because in his own life, his only sister who was a single mom, she was 39 and was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she had a nine year old daughter. So when his sister died, he was devastated himself, with less trying to support his niece and he looked around Portland at that time and there were some groups for adults. There was nothing for children and he thought this was a real need and around the same time he saw something, I believe it was on 20/20 that just listed this new place that had opened out in Portland, Oregon called The Dougy Center. And he thought, “That’s what we need here in Portland.” And he was a stock broker, so he [inaudible 00:33:54] his job, tapped into his savings, went over there to see what they were doing and then came back and adjusted what he had seen and created his own center. We were the third in the U.S., so he made a really special effort to the model.

It was very important to him that the model was a family model, which again given that time back then Kübler-Ross was only beginning to write about grief. There was hardly anything getting written about children or even the acknowledgment that children grieved. So this was very important to him that it would be a family model, where the whole family could come. But also what was important was the fact that it would be facilitated. These groups, which are age appropriate would be facilitated by people from the community, who had gotten through a 30 plus hour training and then they themselves, volunteered would be supported by staff and clinical consultants and all of that to make sure that this was … as I said, it was a test back then. Obviously now, going on 31 years later, a lot more has been written to in turn … actually confirm that this approach does work. So he had a great vision.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You are originally from Ireland.

Anne Heros:                          Correct.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Do they have things like this back there?

Anne Heros:                          I was not … Again, you don’t really think about that at that time back then. I mean now they do, but it’s not done the way … What I’m involved in is a very different kind of model. There and in some other countries, it either is a church related type model, but not something that’s done by volunteers and it may be a clinical model, but nothing to the same degree as what I’m … what we’re involved in here. So it’s … I think what we have here in the United States is pretty special. As I said, we were the third and there’s now over 300 in those 31, so.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              What is the benefit of involving community members?

Anne Heros:                          Well it is … It’s … To me, ’cause I’m somebody who actually also benefited from attending the center, it is … The fact that it is other people from the community, it is like a gift of unconditional love that’s the gift from like what I would see from being an adult and being aware of being the facilitators in my group. But the other magic is the fact that it is peers. You’re gonna have other people in your group who are your same age and therefore you’re breaking down the walls of isolation, you’re helping children to see that they are not alone. There are others experiencing the same kind of situation and that there’s hope. There’s other people there and they seem to be doing okay. I mean our program is a year round program. So you could be the newest child in the group but then you could also be aware of another child who’s there a couple of months. So it is … It’s giving you that sense that wow, each day … This … I’m going to be okay and I think that’s pretty special.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You benefited from this because of your daughter’s death.

Anne Heros:                          Correct. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it seems as though it would be hard to know when one is grieving something that large, when or how to reach out for some people.

Anne Heros:                          Well I think that’s where awareness of our existence is very important. For me, I became aware of the center because they actually responded to the school because it was a sudden death and that’s how I became aware that they existed. And then also, there was somebody in the school who actually volunteered at the center and I volunteered in the office of the school. I guess I had an ulterior motive because I wanted to keep an eye on my kids and you know, ’cause you are very protective at … particularly at very pivotal times like this. You are overly protective and so I got to know her and she told me more about the center and so it kinda was there in my mind that in a way, even though I’d had a lot of education behind me around children, ’cause I was in education back in Ireland. But this aspect of a child’s life, how could you make it through and also for me, as a parent, how could you make it through and be a healthy parent to parent these kids going forward.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Your daughter was 12?

Anne Heros:                          She was 10-

Dr. Lisa B.:                              10.

Anne Heros:                          And it was a sudden virus that attacked her. We did not realize that she was sick. We thought she had a stomach virus, so.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And she had … has siblings.

Anne Heros:                          Yes. She had two brothers. She was the middle child, she was 10. Her brother was 11 going on 12 and her youngest one was eight. So she was … We used to joke and say she was the Oreo or the white part in the cookie. You know what I mean? She just was the glue, she really was.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So I also wonder, it would be devastating enough I imagine to lose a child, but then to continue to have to parent your other children.

Anne Heros:                          Absolutely. It was a double edged sword in the sense that you really just wanted to curl up in bed and pull the covers over your head and come back out a month ahead. But you didn’t have that luxury when you have got children to parent and in that sense, there was a bit of a saving grace in it too, that I had that … that demand on me. I think the other thing for me was the fact that I was only here two years from Ireland. So I didn’t really … I hadn’t really built up that network yet of friends and obviously no family and whatever. So being able to reach out and find a place like this really helped me, but I mean again, they were boys. So again, a little different but for me, it was a case of well you know what? This is did not come with a rule book. It’s there, I’ll try it because having as they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I knew that this was a … as they’re calling it now, an adverse childhood experience and to make … And having moved to a new country to … So you take these experiences that children experience throughout their lives and some of them can be very, very traumatic and it can severely impact the development of that child. So I was very aware of that and so I knew … I became a voracious reader to learn all that I could about how kids experienced this and as I said, there wasn’t a lot written, but the little bit that was out there, I managed to access. And actually somebody from the community, what she did was she actually went to the library and got about six books and took them out and brought them and dropped them off and just left them there. But the challenge at that time is my ability to concentrate in those very early days, was very small. So really articles were something that I could really just concentrate on for a short moment of time and get some information from them, and I … There were some important pieces that I gleaned back then and one of them was children saying how a bereaved parent kind of idolizes the one that has died and the two are … the ones that are left behind are kind of relegated.

So that was something that I wanted to make sure, as much as possible was not going to be felt by the kids and also that you didn’t become overly protective and not let them experience their childhood. And I have particular, kind of moments when that piece that I picked up kind of came back to me in very … in front of me in the sense … The first time was when my oldest boy got his driving license and he’s driving off in the car with his brother and it’s kinda like I’m standing there looking at my future just driving away in a car and it’s like, oh my goodness. But again, you gotta hold back on that. The other one was when my older one came home from college and said he wanted to join the marines and I thought oh, wow. Talk about wanting to hold yourself back and not want wrap them [inaudible 00:43:56]. But those were important things for me to know that you had to release and let your children experience the world in spite of the fact that it seems like your world has fallen apart and how do you start to build some comfort and some assurity around what’s going to happen, which I mean in the big picture, you have no control over. But in your naïve way as you’re parenting, you think you can control it all, at least I thought anyway.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I’m … One of the things that I over the years have become interested in as a doctor is that we never really let go of grief completely. I mean someone who was in our life that we lose is always with us in some capacity.

Anne Heros:                          Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And the more years I have been a doctor, the more I’ve seen that this … it goes on for decades, maybe forever.

Anne Heros:                          It does. It does and I think that’s what’s becoming … people are beginning to get that message now, which is good because again, going back to Kübler-Ross, she said there were four or five stages in grief and people … I think maybe naively, we wanted to think well, five stages and you were done and it was wrapped up in a bow and that was it and of course it’s not. Of course, it’s not.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And not everybody goes through the stages-

Anne Heros:                          No.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Not only at the same pace, but in the same order perhaps.

Anne Heros:                          No, not at all.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And it makes it difficult I think for people who are trying to be helpful-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              To know what to say or how to act.

Anne Heros:                          Right. Right. And again, going back to the work at the center, what we train our facilitators in is how to be reflective listeners, because really it’s about getting your voice back. It’s about hearing yourself think in a way and having another person reflected back. It may not be the facilitator that reflects it back, but it could be another participant in the group and that is so helpful. I know from the … Sometimes it felt like you could be going crazy. Right? So that can have its own aspect to it and how do normalize to a degree, something that’s happening to you and that it will be okay by certain supportive factors that are going to help you heal. Whether it is physically, making sure you’re going to your doctor and you’re staying healthy and you’re getting that input and doing all the right things for your body. Two, whether it is one on one counseling for awhile or in our case, you come to a group setting and experience meeting other people who are walking the walk. So you need to look at all of these aspects. We do a piece on quadrants, what about your physical, your emotional, your spiritual health, those are all aspects of an individual.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It has … It was just occurring to me, me sitting here now, maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but in a sense you can be a grieving child really at any age.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It is your … I believe your inner child that is the most impacted by loss.

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And I have spoken to adults who’ve told me that they’ve benefited from going to the Center for Grieving Children because they lost a parent at an early age-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Or a sibling at an early age and they were adults-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              That went to the center.

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So it’s interesting that you are absolutely serving an entire spectrum of physical ages, but you’re still dealing with the emotional impact on the inner child.

Anne Heros:                          Yes and particularly our volunteers, I think are the ones who would speak to that because people will say, “Oh, to be a volunteer do I have to have experience at death in my life?” You know, part of your life and we kinda say, “No. There are different things that can happen to you in your life that will impact your emotional well being.” And so that’s kind of a hidden gift I think that happens at the center and probably part of the reason our volunteers stay for a long period of time, is that is what they’re getting from that, because they wish the center would’ve been there when they’d had that experience. So it’s an inner part of all that’s happening at the center. I mean for us, our groups are as I said, a family model but what … As we were working through the years, the children’s grief journey happens in age developmental stages, but the adults experience it differently. They’re in this timeline and so when the children were ready to leave the center, the adults were saying, “Oh, I really still could do with a group.”

So as the center got more … I guess sustained in its work and its support, it started adding extra adult groups and also at that time, research was showing the better the adult does, the better the child does. So even though we might’ve added a bereave parents group or a widow/widower’s partners group, we were still indirectly helping children.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I have a patient who is a writer and puts things out on his blog. So I feel comfortable talking about his grief because he’s very open about it. He’s an older gentleman and his child died I believe when she was in her late teens and she would’ve been my age, which was something that struck him-

Anne Heros:                          Of course. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I believe within the last year or so, that this wasn’t a child that was still whatever age she was.

Anne Heros:                          Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              This is an entire life that had been lost.

Anne Heros:                          Exactly. Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And as a writer, he’s been able to process this.

Anne Heros:                          Right.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              One of the things that has come up … So that’s sort of one thing and I’m guessing you might have had similar thoughts on that because your daughter is my sister’s age.

Anne Heros:                          Exactly. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              They knew each other at Yarmouth.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              So there’s that piece.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And then there’s also, which is a second piece, the fact that men and women even process death differently. As a father, I think he processed death differently than his then wife. What are your thoughts?

Anne Heros:                          Yes. You have … I try to explain to people that … that horrific pain that you have in the beginning subsides, it gets easier. It gets easier and then there are … A long period of time, you might not think about it at all as having happened to you, but then something in a life event, an incident of some kind and the flash comes back. Whether it is the day my son was getting married or then you’re … my daughter’s best friend getting married, that was a hard day for me because again you’re thinking, “Wow. That’s a life event I will not experience with her.” And then the same when my son had his first child, which turned out to be a girl.

So those are things that … yes, but they don’t bring you down. They don’t bring you back to where you were, at least I feel that’s because I’ve done so much work and I guess embrace sounds like you welcomed it. I’d trade places in the morning but it’s all the time processing. You’re a human being, you are a process. You cannot stand still. You’re not a … You’re just gonna experience these things and some people … it will bring them back to a … Maybe it will be the thing that will pull the rug from under them and so therefore then they need to get the support and that’s part of the reason the center does outreach to schools, because we’re asking teachers on the frontline to help these students. To do something for these students that in turn might trigger in their lives, something that happened and there, they’ve got to function and be there and support the kids and yet inside, this flashback is happening for them for their own loss. So that’s why we also behind the scenes try to … want to support the teachers ’cause they’re the ones who are going to be there day in and day out to work with the students.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              And is there a difference between the way that men and women process grief? Is it-

Anne Heros:                          Yes.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Can you easily go along gender lines or is it just every individual is different?

Anne Heros:                          I think there’s definitely an individual part of it but I think there’s different permissions that are given to the genders. For men, there is that piece about crying makes you look vulnerable, being in touch with your feelings, you’re expected to be strong. The old sayings of, “Well now you’re the man of the house.”, when the father dies and mom is left behind. What a ridiculous thing to say to a 10 year old boy and mom is 30 something or 40, and now to the 10 year old, you’re the man of the house. So those are unfair expectations that are put there. The girls on the other side of it are kinda give that permission to cry and probably do experience more … Their feelings are very much I think to the forefront in a lot of cases, but then there’s other things that they’re not given permission to … like to be angry, to be physical.

That’s why we at the center have a … we have a room where you can be rambunctious and be safe and being physical, whatever that might be. That’s an important thing too for a girl to have ’cause these are all things that are healthy for your body, but they have to be done in a safe way. And we will have male volunteers at the center who will say, “I was … Everything was taken away. We were not allowed to talk about it.” The same was happening for girls too. Thankfully, nowadays we’re trying to educate and help people understand … I know we had one experience where this volunteer having gone through our training, started to reflect on the death of his own mom and how his dad kind of managed to … or didn’t manage to kind of parent the family and how it created a fracture really in their relationship later, and so he hadn’t seen his dad in a long time. So having gone through the training, there was that light bulb that went on that had him think, “I need to go back.” And so he booked a flight to go visit his father and so there was that reconnection, because he began to see it from his father’s side and his father trying to do the best. So that was a nice story to hear.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Anything that you would like our listeners to know about the Center for Grieving children, anything that you think is particularly interesting or that you’d like to share?

Anne Heros:                          I think sometimes when people hear the name, Grieving Children, that they think it’s a sad place and that is not … Yes, what brings people there can be sad but children in a lot of cases experience for the first time, it’s okay to be happy again because when there’s so much sadness in a house, how can you be happy again, how can you … By coming to the center, there’s also opportunities to have those conversations and I think the other piece is that we provide a lot of services. So I encourage people to go to our website and see all the work that we do, because I think that’s one of the pieces people will say to me, “Wow, I didn’t know that you did so much.” And I think one of the other pieces is that we are there, okay, we’re not there 24/7, but we are there either on the phone or on the website to answer your questions and help you. There’s an awful lot of work that we do that does not mean you actually physically come inside the walls of the center, but we do a lot of work with a lot of different kinds of populations. We have a big refugee and immigrant program. We have a tender living care program, where we work with families who are dealing with a life threatening illness, and then of course, there’s our bereavement program.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I appreciate all the work that you’ve done-

Anne Heros:                          Thank you.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Over the last several decades now.

Anne Heros:                          Yeah.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              It must be a little hard to believe.

Anne Heros:                          It is hard to believe actually that there’s more behind me than there is ahead of me.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              Well I’m glad you’re still here.

Anne Heros:                          Me too!

Dr. Lisa B.:                              I hope you still got a few decades ahead of you still. I’ve been speaking with Anne Heros, who serves as the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children, an organization that serves grieving children, teenagers, families and young adults with peer support, outreach and education. Thank you so much.

Anne Heros:                          Thank you.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Dr. Lisa B.:                              You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 341. Our guests have included Carol Schoneberg and Anne Heros. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows, also let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our editorial producer is Kate Gardner. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy and our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #340: Marshall Taylor and Paul Cousins

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor and chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 340 airing for the first time on Sunday, March 25, 2018. Today we speak with Marshall Taylor, artistic director of Quisisana Resort. We also speak with meteorologist Paul Cousins who is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast. He has been analyzing weather in the northeastern United States for more than 40 years. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in it’s newly expanded space including Inken Georgonson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Marshall Taylor is the artistic director at Quisisana Resort, a summer resort in western Maine that specializes in musical entertainment. Thanks for coming in today.

Marshall Taylor:                Good morning.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You actually had a little bit of a journey to make it in to visit with us.

Marshall Taylor:                About an hour and a half on 302.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s a strong hour and half. You can’t rush that.

Marshall Taylor:                It depends who you get behind. It wasn’t too bad this morning.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re not originally … You don’t live in Maine full time.

Marshall Taylor:                I wasn’t gonna tell.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We consider you a Mainer anyway because you’ve been coming here for how many years?

Marshall Taylor:                It’s been almost 30 and I feel like a Mainer, certainly all summer long. I’ve been here four months of the year for 30 years, so you do the math. That’s a few years.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I think we’ll count it.

Marshall Taylor:                But I’ve never seen the winter. I think that’s what makes me a damned out of stater.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I guess, although, you live in New York.

Marshall Taylor:                I do, I do.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You get winter down there too.

Marshall Taylor:                I see your snowfall up here and I get a little jealous.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You originally are not from New York.

Marshall Taylor:                No.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re originally from a snowier place.

Marshall Taylor:                Wisconsin, farm country.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s probably smart of you not to move up to Maine full time because you know what the snow is like.

Marshall Taylor:                I think I would like to try it once.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Anytime you want, we’re here.

Marshall Taylor:                Thanks. Thanks.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You know where to reach us.

Marshall Taylor:                I’m glad I’m welcome. Thanks.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me about the resort. It’s a very unique place.

Marshall Taylor:                It’s a very old … it’s a throw back. Our guests come and stay a week and they’ve probably been doing it many, many years. Some of our 10 years guests consider themselves as newbies. A lot of people come as children and grow up and bring their own children. They come a week, they stay the same week, they sit at the same table, they stay in the same cottage. It’s a bit of a home away from home. They can pretend they’re Mainer’s too I guess. Every night we have entertainment. That’s really my area of involvement. I hire the staff, I audition them, and I put together the shows. But, they all work jobs too so I sort of have my finger in the dining room and the maintenance department, the dishwashers. All those people are performers. I find myself overseeing that too, but you asked about the resort, not about me.

It’s on a beautiful lake, Lake Kezar is one of those fortunately still very clean, clear bodies of water. It’s in the mountains, almost New Hampshire. We’re Steven King’s neighbor. We have great food. What else? The entertainment is often surprising. Here I get back to my own area, but I think the guests who come are surprised at the quality. A lot of our kids have either been on Broadway or find themselves working fairly soon after they’ve been with us, which is a blessing. I often worry how will we find a cast to top the last year’s cast. Fortunately, it’s never been a problem.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we went out to visit, it was really wonderful to be talking to a very pleasant member of the wait staff who brought over some sort of blueberry dessert and then not too long after see them up on stage doing incredible things musically and theatrically.

Marshall Taylor:                They can really turn it on. You imagine how pleasant they are, that is key. They’re a family for themselves and for the week that the weeks are there, the guests are part of that family as well. It really does extend beyond the service relationship. Once they step on stage, it’s kind of unforgettable. For little people, young people, it makes it even more exciting when they see their friend, their buddy up there singing an opera or something they never dreamt they’d want to see.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That was something that did surprise me was the opera piece. You’re not just doing Broadway show tunes, which is also great. You’re doing really a full spectrum of I guess we’ll call it entertainment.

Marshall Taylor:                The opera is more traditional to the resort. The Broadway is the part that’s grown. That’s the new kid in town. The original owner, Ralph Burg, had a music store in Boston and his friends were classically trained musicians and they would come up and entertain. There was a long heritage of opera and art song, a lot of Boston Conservatory students and alumni would come. As times have changed a bit and we’ve gotten our productions to be a bit more lavish, I use that word lightly, the Broadway part is new, but I remain committed to the opera. I have that background myself. I love to introduce people to that.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  The day we were there, there was … I think it was interesting because 207 was out taping, our local TV show. You had brought in different people to represent different types of work that are done throughout the week. There was a couple that had partnered together to sing opera and I could’ve been in Boston. I could’ve been in New York listening to the highest caliber performance and it was in this nice little lodge on the shores of the lake.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. We were very lucky to get that couple. They came as a package deal. Jeremy, the tenor, had worked for us last year and did the tenor lead in Carmen. He met Samantha and she wanted to come back this summer. We were thrilled to have them. Their home is New Jersey, so I was going to say you might have even been in New Jersey hearing that opera. It’s nice to have people of that age level too. Younger singers, college age kids are just not as developed. They’re wonderful, but we’ve sort of found a niche of young, emerging performers who are beyond college and beyond the young artist programs. They also need to have experience and make some money.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  The way that I understand that it works that throughout the course of the season, you are offering a different type of performance every night-

Marshall Taylor:                Every night.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Of the week. The beginning if the season, you start the practicing and the performing of a certain performance say on a Monday. By the end of the season, you’re still performing that same thing on a Monday.

Marshall Taylor:                Every Monday. We’re a repertory. Every Monday night is our musical. Every Tuesday is our piano concert. Our opera night is Wednesday. We have about 10 days of rehearsal before our first guests come. Those are crazy days. We have to get the resort ready, so everyone is working their day job until 10:15 when they have to run to rehearsal and learn some choreography or some French aria. Then they have lunch and they are back to twigging and raking until their next rehearsal is scheduled or costume fitting or whatever is on the docket for the day.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  In addition to being the artistic director, you actually have other multiple day jobs. You run the gift shop.

Marshall Taylor:                I have a little gift shop. I do all the things that an artistic director might do. I’m not a designer, but I have my hand in the cabins and picking the fabrics. I worked with owner of Court and Honor for a long time on trying to upgrade the cabins before I was artistic director. I’ve sort of kept that in my bag of tricks as I’ve gone on.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we had lunch with the current owner, she told us you spent a significant amount of time buying for the gift shop-

Marshall Taylor:                That’s the great fun.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Down in New York.

Marshall Taylor:                That’s the great fun. Winter is my slow season and I can scout out things and shops and I go to gift shows. There’s a New England made show that is in the spring up here. At this time in the year, it’s down in mass. I may go down to that because I do like to have local artists represented. It’s a luxury to have that kind of time because the store is only open for 10 weeks. I’m not in it year round like some shop keepers have to be.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When you were growing up in Wisconsin, did you ever think that this would be your job and your life? It seems like a pretty nice combination of things that enable you to do things that you love.

Marshall Taylor:                When you grow up and you want to be a performer, there are so few pictures of what success are. You imagine yourself as a big star or working on Broadway. I think originally wanted to be a country singer, but I’ll let that go for now. No, I didn’t image this and I can’t imagine a better balance for myself because I do get to do a lot of things. I run the payroll. That doesn’t fit with an artistic profile in any way in my estimation, but I love to do it and I love to interview the kids and hire them. I love the guests. I spent a lot of time, a lot of the days during the season are just spent listening and talking with them and finding out what their year has been like and keeping them in the family and letting them know what the new kids are up to and what their backgrounds are in case that would spark an interest. It’s a great fit for me. I guess I have a short attention span.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Family is very important to you, because the current owners of the resort are a family.

Marshall Taylor:                They are a family. They are the Orans family. I am not an Orans, but family are the friends you make along the way. They’ve adopted me few years after I started there. I felt very much a part of the family. Jane has one son who works there fully, but most of the guests assume I’m her son as well. It’s a family.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s an incredible thing to think about her story because she was a young woman when her husband died and she had children. This resort that they had been coming to up here in Maine and she was a preschool teacher.

Marshall Taylor:                She had no experience at all. What I had never realized when I busboy there all those years ago was how frightened she was. She had been doing it just a few years and really didn’t seem to think she knew what she was doing. From my point of view, she had all the answers. She was very firm about her opinions. She started out with several partners and little but little, they fell to the side and she emerged as the one. It became her life when she needed it most and it kept her going and she kept it going as well. The place wouldn’t be there without her. It’s a bittersweet time of year because it was right after their week at Quisisana, the last week of August when he went home and her husband died very shortly thereafter. The summer ending brings a lot of feelings for her I’m sure.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  She’s a pretty strong lady.

Marshall Taylor:                Yeah, refiner’s fire. She’s had to struggle through a lot, but she’s always able to keep giving. She doesn’t take anything for granted and she loves the staff. She is so concerned about their experience for the summer. In her mind, it’s a lot like going to summer camp even though their working. She wants them to make the most of it and have a personally great summer. Each year, she manages to make it even a better experience for them. The living conditions are better, the work is probably a little less hard, the money is better. Each year, we sort of have a better group who are more cohesive and can foster each other in a better way. That’s all her doing. She’s made that the priority.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You go to various places around the country to find the people who work at the resort with you. Most of these places are places that you actually have a personal connection to.

Marshall Taylor:                It’s true. I go back to my alma maters. It’s nice to have a connection at a school, so I can find out a bit more about each student that I hire. That’s not saying I won’t hire someone that I can’t investigate that way, but it’s a great advantage when I can speak to their teachers as my colleagues and friends. I also go to schools where some of our alumni have gone on to teach, which is great. They’re at great schools, Cincinnati Conservatory, it’s very nice. My alma maters are so illustrious, but I’m loyal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What do you look for in a performer when you’re auditioning for someone to come who’s really going to play, again, multiple roles. Maybe they’re raking up the water front or maybe they’re life guarding or maybe they’re wait staff, but they’re also going to be singing opera or performing Broadway, show tunes or … What do you look for?

Marshall Taylor:                You have to see the talent first, otherwise, the door isn’t open at all. Close behind the talent is the person. They have to be flexible. They can’t take themselves too seriously. Obviously, they have to be very friendly. Somehow I’ve developed a sense … I’m not always right, but I do manage to get a lot of kids who are pretty perfect for us. That sounds like I’m full of it, but either they come to Quisisana with a great attitude or it’s in the atmosphere and that’s set by their peers. Everyone knows that they’re not above picking up trash or picking up sticks or washing dishes. There’s no job that is too low. There were many years when she and I cleaned cabins together and she insisted on doing the bathrooms. She said that was her department. When the management or when the owner is setting a tone like that, it’s hard for the staff not to pick up on. In auditions, I find myself trying to picture this person who is probably dressed to the nines because it’s an audition. Kinda picture them in a uniform or kinda picture them with a rake or worse. I am looking for all of that, but if they don’t have the talent, we never even get to that step.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I don’t want to make Jane uncomfortable or out her in any way, but she’s got some years.

Marshall Taylor:                81. She’ll be 82 very shortly.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When we were out there and she said, “Hey, hop on this golf cart and I’ll show you around,” it was impressive because she was taking her time out of her busy schedule and driving us all around and showing us the place. She was a pretty funny lady.

Marshall Taylor:                She’s very funny. I think the Boston Globe referred to her as a salty whit or something like that. I’m just glad you were in her golf cart and not her car. That can get scary.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  she didn’t offer us that. She did say she was stealing the golf cart I think from her granddaughter.

Marshall Taylor:                Right, that makes sense.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It’s not normally her golf cart to show us around.

Marshall Taylor:                She loves to show the place off. It’s her baby; she’s created it. Even though it has a long tradition, I think anyone would admit that she’s had a huge impact. The lake in the mountains, she won’t take credit for, but everything else, she’s-

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I know her son and her daughter-in-law are there, along with you, full time for the entire summer.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. They are indeed. It’s her life. I don’t know what she’d do in the morning. Even 12 months of the year, she wakes up thinking Quisisana. The office in the winter is in her home outside of New York City. The phone rings and it’s, “Good morning. Quisisana,” every day of her life. It takes that kind of dedication I guess, any family business. I’m not sure how many others would have stuck it out because I don’t think there’s much money coming in, not as much as goes out.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It really is a labor of love.

Marshall Taylor:                It is, yeah. Yeah. She said, “I don’t buy jewelry. I don’t buy fancy clothes. This is my hobby.”

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Her son and her daughter-in-law actually met there.

Marshall Taylor:                Yes, Natalie started as a soprano. She’s still a soprano. In the early mid-90s and her first job was in the office. She was a bubbly little thing in college at Hartford, Connecticut, in their school of music and an opera singer. Although, at her age, she found herself mostly in the musical theater stuff for a while. She and Sam hit it off right away. They had a long engagement. I believe in 2000, they got married at the end of the summer at Quisisana and now have two great kids.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  One of the things that I think is really nice about the location of the resort is the sense of openness and also this lack of wireless access. You go there and your phone probably isn’t going to work. You can get onto the internet, but you have to go to the main lodge.

Marshall Taylor:                You have to seek it out.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s only a few places.

Marshall Taylor:                Right. Even then, I would say it’s not the world’s fastest system. I think when cell phones were new, it seemed just awful to everyone that they couldn’t get on their cell phone and call out. We’re going so far in the direction that you can’t hide anywhere, that it feels better and better as the years go by to find a place where you can unplug for real. There’s no TV. There’s a TV in the lodge, but there’s no TV in the cabins. There are no telephones in the cabins. The last thing you want to do is hear somebody standing next to you who are having one of those loud conversations. We’re lucky we don’t have to make the announcements before the shows, “Make sure your cell phones are turned off.”

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  In fact, I think it was only pretty recently that you even had air conditioning.

Marshall Taylor:                That’s very true. The nights used to be cooler I’m afraid. At some point after watching somebody walking on stage sweating, they decided to put an air conditioning in … At first, it was the public areas, the dining room, the theater area. Then one year Sam just said we’ve gotta put it in all the cabins. The only downside is people close their windows and night and don’t hear the loons. They often say to me, “I don’t hear the loons anymore. What’s happened?” They’re still there.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It also used to be that people would bring their boats to the edge of the water.

Marshall Taylor:                Right, we do close the windows in the hall now and we’ve lost part of our public audience. It was quite a tradition. You knew which people loved which kind of music because you’d see their boats out there every night. That was a real sight. If it got boring, you knew when they left.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  After you’d been doing this, how old were you when you started as a busboy?

Marshall Taylor:                I turned 25 my first summer.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This has really been-

Marshall Taylor:                This is my life.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Your life. And you keep doing it year after year.

Marshall Taylor:                Because it’s my life. For a long time, I had an off season job, things that were more on the school calendar. As my process at Quisisana evolved, I don’t have to … I have a full time employment by them now, which is a blessing. I’m in my early 50s and I’ve had one job. I’m so lucky, but I think who would look at a resume when it has one job for all that time. That’s not the world. I guess I’m a throw back too.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I think that there are people who do things for that amount of time. Maybe not as many nowadays, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

Marshall Taylor:                No, no, I don’t think it’s a bad thing either. I think it’s a wonderful thing; it’s just not the norm and it doesn’t make for great cocktail party conversation.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What was your favorite performance this summer?

Marshall Taylor:                We did a wonderful children’s piece called Dear Edwina, a musical. I have a real love for children’s theater and music I think because I didn’t have that as a kid. Literally, my music classes were on the radio because we were so remote in Wisconsin. I think it’s so special to reach kids. We had this, like I said, Dear Edwina. There’s moments of truth. It was a questions and answer, people were asking her advice. It’s all a musical. It just has a sweetness and an innocence that always captured me, and the cast was incredible. That was my favorite for the summer. Thrilling moments and other things, we did sometime Into the Woods. We had some great voices in our operetta. My heart always was won by that first Monday morning every week.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Do you know what you’re gonna be doing next year or is that still in the works?

Marshall Taylor:                That’s still in the works. I take the fall to listen. I do consider things that are a little bit far off field. I try to stretch myself and think, “Would that work? Would that work?” Then I listen to the former cast members to see what they’re thinking about for the next summer. I do like to have a few aces in the hole when it comes to casting. I don’t commit until January 1 every year. Now I put it on Facebook. Soon thereafter, we send a postcard to the guests. I have a bit of time to consider it.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I appreciate your taking the time out of your schedule to come in and talk. As we’re speaking, the resort has just finished up, and you’re still there for a few more weeks before you head back to your other home. I’ve been speaking with Marshall Taylor who is the artistic director at Quisisana Resort, a resort in western Maine that specialized in musical entertainment. Thank you for bringing this wonderful joy into the world.

Marshall Taylor:                Thank you so much for spreading the joy. It’s been a pleasure.

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Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Paul Cousins is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast, a meteorologist consulting company based in Portland. He has been analyzing weather in the northeast for over 40 years. Thanks for coming in.

Paul Cousins:                       You’re quite welcome. I’m still analyzing, and I hope to get I right someday.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems a little bit like my field of medicine where you’re always going to be learning new things and technology is going to change. It’s probably never a place where you’re gonna get to say, “I know everything about this.”

Paul Cousins:                       That’s right. The learning curve, there’s no end in sight.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Which is excited.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why weather? Why were you interested in this in the first place?

Paul Cousins:                       I’m sure it had to do with my youth and my large family, many brothers. The myth is I was baptized in my crib during Hurricane Carol. I’m dating myself again, the 50s. My grandmother’s house, the roof leaked. I was baptized by a hurricane. As a very young child, my mother was always kicking us out of the house because she needed some space. We were always playing outside, any sports or on the beach. When the weather turned inclement, my father would rope us in to get us out of harms way. I recall as a very young sprite, he would sit us on his knee, and we’d watch storms roll across the bay on the south shore of Massachusetts and watching lightning strikes pink the surface of the bay and everything just turned white, the oriel of charged water. I thought that was fascinating. Every time there was a thunder storm, we’d say, “Dad, porch, view.” That’s where it all began. Then of course everything we did outside was weather dependent, summer sports, winter sports, skating, you name it. I was very highly attuned to the local day to day weather.

I was I think in junior high school, I was a budding, young science nerd. I was fascinated with the weather, and I took a mentor in commercial television. The boss his name was Don Kent. He was one of the first broadcast meteorologists in the country, and I took quite a liking to the way he presented weather. To make a long story short, I struck up a relationship with him, and he became my mentor. I would visit him once every year in the studios of WBZTV in Boston. We talked shop, and we became really great friends over about a 10 year period. He said, “Paul, what are you gonna do with yourself? You’re gonna graduate from high school.” He said, “Go into solar energy.” Back in the day, that was a crazy thing to do. That was almost heretical. It was a concept. I said, “No, I want to do what you do, Don. I want to be a television meteorologist.” He said, “Paul, it’s crazy. It’s 40% and 60% show biz.” Of course, I thunderstruck, pardon the expression.

I went to Middlebury. I was a geophysicist and enjoyed it, but I graduated and worked for the US geological survey for a year or two. I said, “I miss weather too much.” I went back to school and got a degree. The circle became very short within a few years of obtaining a degree in meteorology. I was contacted by the news director at WBZTV in Boston and they wanted me to come down and audition because Don can’t. My mentor was retiring. Low and behold, I got the job. Here, my childhood mentor was retiring, and I was going to make an attempt to fill his shoes, which was virtually impossible. We had a ball for two weeks and his retirement party. He and I were on the air together every day. Talk about a dream come true. The rest is history. I just stayed in the industry, never regretted it for minute.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Geophysicist, that’s sounds like quite a hefty scientific major.

Paul Cousins:                       It was. The calculus just about killed me, but there’s a lot of math in physics. I was working for the geological survey at the time when the United States was considering leasing the eastern shelf to oil companies for exploratory drilling. You can imagine that environmentalists were quite concerned at the time, still are. We were charged by the Bureau of Land Management to do a lot of research out there to see how stable the continental shelf was because they’re gonna put oil rigs out there. What are the waves like? What’s the bottom like? We found out it was a very turbulent area. There were sand dunes 20-30 feet high that would migrate across the continental shelf. Can you imagine what that would do to an oil rig? To say nothing about 100 year storms, which turned out to happen every couple of years. Sandy was not that unique. That was five years ago. It was cutting edge science back in the 70s. Fascinating. We’d spend weeks at sea doing exploratory drilling to find out the stability of the strata and monitoring currents and waves. Work with a lot of redneck crews from the bayou. They were hoots. I learned a lot from these crews from the deep south at sea for weeks at a time. Anyway, it was a fascinating time with the US geological survey, but weather was still burning a hole in my back pocket, so I left and went back to school.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems as though weather, at least broadcast weather, has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely. Absolutely. I couldn’t speak with total accuracy as how it’s changed, but when I was in the business, we had two and then three news casts a day with hours in between. I multi-tasked. I did a lot of radio work on my own volition. Now from what I understand from my associates who I still chat with from time to time, you have five or six news casts a day. You’re working for two or three television stations. You’re blogging. You’re maintaining other websites, doing radio. It’s non-stop. I guess it’s 9 or 10 hours straight, barely enough time to tie your shoes.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You were with WCSH?

Paul Cousins:                       Initially.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Initially.

Paul Cousins:                       Then I went to Hartford and Boston and then came back to GME.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why decide that you wanted to do something so different for yourself with your current position?

Paul Cousins:                       My consultancy?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Yeah.

Paul Cousins:                       Actually, when I began my stint at GME in the 80s, I launched a large radio clientele. I launched the weather column in the Portland Press Herald. No one was doing it. I was enjoying the freelance work. I was also advising a lot of municipalities and large construction companies and Bath Iron Works, Central Maine Power, weather sensitive industries. It became quite a full boat. It was fascinating and I was an entrepreneur. I was my own boss. I thought, “You know, this television industry, it’s great, but it’s changing. I think I should make room for some young blood.” My consultancy was certainly well fleshed out, so I could pursue that as a sustainable profession.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What about the broadcasting piece of it do you miss?

Paul Cousins:                       The comradery, without a doubt. Miss that a lot because I work for myself in my own office with a very simple broadcast studio. There’s no one there but me, the microphone and I. The bulk of my work is really consulting for industry, and the energy companies and our litigious community. I do a lot of consulting for attorneys and insurance companies, which I never thought would be so engaging.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me about that. What does it mean to be someone who consults on the weather?

Paul Cousins:                       The term is called a forensic meteorologist. A lot of it is weather event reconstruction. Let’s say someone slips on a sidewalk. Was someone negligent in not sanding or salting or plowing. The far more interested cases I’ve had, I think it was when Hurricane Floyd passed through Maine 20 or 15 years ago, a fellow had a deer herd up in Jefferson. The allegation was that lightning bolts struck a pole near where all the deer were congregating, and they were electrocuted, and they died. The owner quickly buried all the deer in a mass grave so that it would not infect the rest of the herd. The insurance company say, “Nah, just wait a minute. First of all, was there lightning that struck your yard, deer yard?” I was charged with determining with whether or not that happened. They also brought in a veterinary. They exhumed the deer and found out the deer had some illness prior to the date of this storm. It turned out that this fellow was actually trying to collect insurance proceeds for something that was not a natural cause. The deer were sick and died from this disease. That was an interesting case. There have been many others, but that happened in Maine. I testified in superior court in Vermont. There have been a lot of very engaging things that have happened.

The funny story when I was in superior court in Vermont. This high powered row of attorneys from Boston were representing the [inaudible 00:38:25] and I was representing the defendant, a small construction company in northern Vermont. They’re laying out their grand case, and the judge is sitting there. He turns to me, and he looks at my resume. “Would you happen to know this professor at Middlebury?” I said, “Yes, he was the greatest guy.” He started talking to me in sidebar. The attorneys from Boston were flabbergasted, “What’s the judge doing talking to this witness on the stand?” Many, many funny things have happened in and out of court and on and off the air.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I’m interested in this person that attempted to get his dead deer paid for.

Paul Cousins:                       Insurance fraud. Pure and simple.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  But the idea that in this day and age, you could actually claim that something weather related occurred and think that nobody else is going to know whether you’re right or not. Is that a common thing or do most people accept that with the technology we have, we can reconstruct things?”

Paul Cousins:                       That’s an excellent question. There are skeptics who don’t want to believe the data. Then you can say the data can be interpreted in a number of different ways.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s still … Even if you testify that for example there was lightning strike or there wasn’t a lightning strike, you can still have people who can question whether you are accurate in your statements.

Paul Cousins:                       Right. Did that gauge really catch every lightning strike within a 10 mile radius? Anything can be questioned.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why forensic meteorology? Why that as opposed to other types of meteorology?

Paul Cousins:                       That’s probably one third of the time I spend. Most of what I do is push a very sharp pencil for a lot of utilities in New York, Connecticut, and Maine. Energy providers, they need to know heat and degree information. That’s the day to day gist of what I do and Maine Public Broadcasting. That’s the entertainment mouthpiece.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What types of things do these energy companies need to know?

Paul Cousins:                       For example, Bath Iron Works when you have 5,000 employees and they’re looking to shift changes and so forth, they have to plan ahead both in terms of maintaining their physical plant, when to call in shifts early, let them go early, water levels on the Kennebec. They need to know about that. Occasionally they have sea trials they want to ping on me to determine sea state and so forth and visibility ranges. It’s fascinating. For Central Maine Power, it’s wind, lightning, icing, all the concerns that have been very real this winter again.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How accurate are you able to be?

Paul Cousins:                       I would be disingenuous if I said I was better than 90%.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  But that’s still pretty good.

Paul Cousins:                       I hope so. They renew my contract from year to year, so I guess that speaks for itself. I’ve been doing this now for 30 years.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s some amount of looking at the information that you have access to and then there’s-

Paul Cousins:                       Oh, it’s phenomenal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  There’s also some amount of your experience that enables you to translate that information, correct?

Paul Cousins:                       I would like to think so. I think the biggest challenge for a modern day meteorologist is to decide which information to review and digest because there’s a plethora of data out there, simply overwhelmed, on a 24/7 basis, which is marvelous. One thing I do miss are a set of eyes to actually see the weather and record it. We used to have thousands of weather observers that were a part of Noah’s Cooperative Observing Program. There’s still several dozen out there, but most of them have retired. Now we rely on telemetrics, sensors. Never as good as a pair of eyes, but that data network is actually more robust than the actual physical observer decades ago. Nothing replaces a pair of eyes and observing what is actually transpiring at any given location. I use that data a lot for weather event reconstruction.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We recently spoke with Robin Alden who worked for 40 year with fisherman off the coast of Maine. One of the things that she talked about was this idea that people with their eyes could make observations that really nicely complemented the science that was out there.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It seems as though we could find benefit from both. Do you think this will ever come back?

Paul Cousins:                       I highly doubt it for two reasons. Man power is expensive and the technology for these remote transmitting devices continues to improve. We have a dozen buoys out on the gulf of Maine that transmit wave heights, wind direction, speed, gusts, sea water salinity, currents, a plethora of data. They’re really good.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’re saying that we might not actually need these eyes?

Paul Cousins:                       Well, I just don’t see it happening. I would love to see observers return. We used to have ships out there who’d report in every hour what the sea state was and how much freezing spray there was. Now we have to make an educated guess based on the telemetry that radioed in, in some cases every 15 minutes. It’s really quite remarkable.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You have an interest in the water. You actually … When we asked who you think we should recognize for the job they do in our community, you said the Friends of Casco Bay.

Paul Cousins:                       They do a terrific job.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Why in particular that group? You must work with so many groups around the state, but you think that they are worthy of recognition in particular.

Paul Cousins:                       I think it’s probably an area, which I really cherish having been boating on this bay for 30 years. It’s really a jewel. Every time I sit out there quietly at anchor, nothing’s moving, nothing’s turned on and just see the splendor really how fortunate we are to have this 15 minutes from my doorstep and people travel across the country to see this beautiful body of water, which now is burgeoning with agriculture. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. My concern is now with climate change and the warming and the green crab invasion and the acidification of the water, we’re losing soft shell clams. These are all manifestations of climate change.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  When people out there say that climate change is not real, I’m not one of these people but I know it is being said, how do you kind of mentally work with that?

Paul Cousins:                       First of all, I gauge the tenor of this individual, how malleable are they or impressionable? Believe it or not, 30 years ago, I was a skeptic. As a geologist, I had seen through paleo-climate logical records the climate on this earth change dramatically over millions of years. We’ve known about ice ages coming and going for millions of years. All of North America was under ice millions of years ago. I thought, “Hey, it’s a natural change. It has to do with the sun’s radiant energy and the tilt of the earth and all those other pieces.” Over time, listening to professionals who know much more about the intricacies of our global circulation system, I said, “There’s just no way I can deny this anymore.” Just look at the carbon dioxide trace in the last 40 years. We’ve been on from 360 to 400 parts per million. That’s not natural. That’s purely anthropogenic forcing, burning fossil fuels. There’s no question in my mind.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Does it ever frustrate you when you hear people suggest that we shouldn’t pay attention to this because it’s just pretend?

Paul Cousins:                       Certainly, but if they don’t believe that climate change is occurring, I’m not going to take up that argument. You pick your battles, right?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You and I share a connection in that your family from many generations ago was actually responsible for founding or at least being an early of Cousins Island and I live off Cousins Island. That’s a really special connection that you have with the state of Maine.

Paul Cousins:                       Yes.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You originally … You told me that it was a great-grandfather-

Paul Cousins:                       Eight great-grandfather.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Eighth great-grandfather was originally off of Cousins. His last name is obviously Cousins and somehow was too friendly with the Native Americans and sent up the coast and originally landed in Ellsworth, but then found his way to Bar Harbor. Is that right?

Paul Cousins:                       That is correct. He was booted out of one town from another. First in Plymouth colony, Mass Bay colony, he was too friendly with the Indians. “John Cousins, go.” Settled in Cousins and the locals said, “John Cousins, go.” I think when he got up to Ellsworth, he decided, “Hey, this Bar Harbor’s a pretty nice place. I’m heading down there.” Then he stayed and then the family generations rippled on and on and on.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Isn’t that a strange thing to think about that one could be too friendly with the Native American population?

Paul Cousins:                       I think he must have been some sort of ambassador or he’s trying to strike up commerce. Who knows what his agenda was?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It was some sort of a threat to people who were coming in later to settle the land.

Paul Cousins:                       Maybe he was just trying to pave the way for colonization. I don’t know. No one has ever written the history or the treatise of John Cousins and his ambassador tendencies.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I find this all very interesting because I just wrote a story for Maine magazine about Turner Farm, which is located on North Haven. They found evidence of the group they’re calling the Red Paint Indians from 7,000 years ago. We have this very interesting and old history of our state that I think a lot of us don’t often ponder.

Paul Cousins:                       7,000 years ago, these preceded the Norwegians and the Vikings then, the Norseman?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Absolutely.

Paul Cousins:                       Wow.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This about the extent of my background. I just thought it was very interesting that this is … We think of colonization as going back a few hundred years, but there were colonies that already existed. They just were before the people who came over on boats.

Paul Cousins:                       Didn’t you wish you had bought a couple of acres back in the day?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Well, I’m happy to …

Paul Cousins:                       You’re in a great spot if you’re near Cousins Island. That’s spectacular. As I told you, I think Casco Bay is a jewel.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  It is a jewel, yeah. Are you happy that you ended up coming back to the state that your family was originally from?

Paul Cousins:                       I’m happy to be here because of the quality of life. It’s just [inaudible 00:49:41] that none of my relatives … Actually, I think I have a great-aunt who lives near Southwest Harbor, but otherwise, I don’t have any living relatives in the state any longer.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How is the quality in life different here than in where you’ve lived in other places?

Paul Cousins:                       When I grew up outside of Boston … I grew up outside of Boston, came back to Boston as a professional. It fun to think that I was actually coming home. I just found the intensity of the lifestyle and the congestion unpalatable. I couldn’t get from my home outside of Boston to the water in 15 minutes nor could I get from my home to Sugar Loaf or Sunday River in 15 minutes. It’s a lot closer in Portland that it is outside of Boston.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You’ve been skiing you said in Sunday River from …

Paul Cousins:                       When they had T bars and one tiny little base lodge.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That’s a few years ago.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  How have you seen Maine change? You talked about living outside of Boston. Obviously there was a lot of changes over the years as a result of the people coming in and living and working. How is Maine changing?

Paul Cousins:                       It’s certainly becoming more populated. I used to be able to zip downtown in 10 minutes, now it takes half an hour. Obviously everybody wants a piece of the pie. You can’t blame them, spectacular. Fortunately where I live, it hasn’t changed much. There are neighborhoods going around, but the schools are still pretty much the same. In fact, I occasionally substitute in schools. Some of the teachers that taught my two children are still there, which is just phenomenal.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Tell me what your favorite I guess weather activity has been over the last we’ll give it five years. Just must have some weather activity I mean, events, things that we have all been impacted by.

Paul Cousins:                       Oh boy. Well, we missed Sandy here. That was a near miss for Maine. I think Irene was pretty impacting, even though, again, that affected western New England more than Maine. That was a pretty significant storm. Of course, when these storms are approaching, I’m on DEFCON 4, full alert. My clients just can’t get enough of me, which is great because I feel like I’m contributing to storm preparation and so forth. I’m mitigating loss of property and so forth. Obviously, the major storms are a rush. Is that the question your asking?

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I guess even as I said it, I realized saying your favorite storm is probably kind of weird because a lot of people are-

Paul Cousins:                       People’s least favorite events.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  A lot of people really are impacted negatively by these storms.

Paul Cousins:                       Absolutely. I don’t discount that for a minute.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What is it about these major storms that energizes you in some way?

Paul Cousins:                       I mean just to see the atmosphere throw us such a curve ball and to see all of these elements come together in concert to create such a dramatic natural environmental calamity. You gotta think that the forces of nature are just insurmountable. We really are at the mercy entirely of mother nature.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Is that something that you think we forget?

Paul Cousins:                       In our very technologically advanced and insulated life style, I think a lot of people have lost touch with the fact that weather events are significant. Due to climate change, they’re going to become more extreme and more frequent and we should prepare for that.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  We are just coming off of what was called I believe it was a bomb cyclone, a major weather event.

Paul Cousins:                       Mm-hmm. Bombogenesis. We’ll see more and more of those.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Talk to me about that.

Paul Cousins:                       As the climate warms, air temperatures rise, sea surface temperatures rise and ocean temperatures rise, we’re enabling the global climate to harbor more energy, more potential energy with these higher temperatures. When we have the right, what’s the word, collusion of weather elements, you’re gonna get a bigger play.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  This is something that impacted not only our part of the world, but really was all the way down into Florida where they got snow.

Paul Cousins:                       Snow in northern Florida this last week. That’s pretty rare. It’s snowed in southern Louisiana, what did I see, the first time in two decades. Weather extremes are going to become more prevalent, both hot and cold, wet and dry. Look at all these fires in southern California.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  That would make it very hard for us to stay prepared if you are in northern Florida and you haven’t really needed to have snow plows or sanders. Now you’re going to have these extremes of weather. That could be a very costly and difficult situation.

Paul Cousins:                       I can only imagine.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  What do you see the next phase of your life looking like? You’ve done so many things over the past 30 years in this field. Is there anything new and interesting that you’d like to tackle?

Paul Cousins:                       I’d like to have more time playing the piano. I used to play daily, but now when you work for yourself, you’re 24/7 even though I don’t work non-stop. I have less time that I know that I’m going to have free and clear. I’d also like to learn how to play the saxophone. I think that’s one of the most sensuous instruments out there other than the piano. I couldn’t be a three man band on the drum, the saxophone, and the piano. I really enjoy music and I enjoy both jazz and classical piano. I used to play in the piano bars here in Portland years ago. I’d just walk in and say, “Is someone taking that piano?” They say, “No, go ahead and play.” I would play until the patrons would come in and sometimes they’d start to tip me. I’d say, “No, no. Don’t bother.” That was fun.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  I hope you have the chance to do that.

Paul Cousins:                       I do too. It could happen.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  Yeah, it could happen. I’ve been speaking with Paul Cousins who is the founder, principal, and CFO at Atmos Forecast, a meteorologist consulting company based in Portland. He has been analyzing weather in the northeast for over 40 years. Thanks for taking the time to come in and for all the work you do.

Paul Cousins:                       My pleasure.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port, 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in it’s newly expanded space including Inken Georgonson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where everybody is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Dr. Lisa Belisle:                  You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 340. Our guests have included Marshall Taylor and Paul Cousins. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them hear. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. Now, you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee Our editorial producer is Kate Gardner. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy. Our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #339: Debby Irving and Donna Dwyer

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Main Radio hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Main Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie Magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio show number 339, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 18, 2018. Today, we speak with racial justice advocate Debbie Irving who published her first book waking up white about her journey toward unpacking her white identity and creating effective social change. We also speak with Donna Dwyer, CEO of the My Place Teen Center in Westbrook. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Cory, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Debbie Irving is a racial justice educator, author and public speaker. She is also the author of Waking Up White, a book that tracks her journey unpacking her white identity. Thanks for coming in.

Debbie Irving:                      Thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          White identity, that’s such an interesting thing to even have to grapple with, I think.

Debbie Irving:                      Well, I didn’t know I had one actually until the age of 48 when I went to take a course called racial and cultural identities. It was a mandatory class when I was just starting out to get my masters in special ed. And I thought mistakenly that I was going to learn the racial and cultural identities of black and brown people so I could be a better teacher in racially mixed classrooms. And I was floored on the first day when the professor told us that we would each be doing our own personal racial and cultural identity dive because I honestly thought, “What am I going to be doing?” I didn’t know I had a racial identity.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that we are almost uncomfortable if we are white to feel as though we have a racial identity?

Debbie Irving:                      Well, not everybody in any racial group experiences everything exactly the same. But are some or many white people uncomfortable? I think yeah, I think you’re right. I think people are uncomfortable because well, for a lot of reasons. One is that there’s this idea in the United States that we’re all individuals and we make it or not on our own. And white people are very much able to buy into that and think, “We’re all just individuals.” My own successes or failures, it’s on me. And so, we don’t see ourselves as a group and we don’t know, most white people, we don’t know what the stereotypes are or the group images are about us as white people. But we are very familiar with grouping other people, having stereotypes about all black people, all Asian people, all Latino people, all Arab people.

The idea of being in a group I think is what’s really uncomfortable. If you say a white identity, a white person has to for the first time maybe think, “Well, I don’t identify as white, I’m Italian, I’m Greek, I’m Irish, I’m English.” But white’s a real thing, it’s a real category with a whole experience that goes with it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I remember one of the anecdotes that you brought up in the book was about Native Americans and when you were a child asking where did all the Native Americans go. And I believe your mother’s response was something that probably we’ve all heard before, but tell me a little bit about that, tell the people who are listening with that story?

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. There’s so much to unpack on this one little exchange. The exchange went like this, I said to my mother, “Where did all the Indians go?” And my mother was a really lovely, warm, compassionate woman, and she said, “It’s really sad, they drank themselves to death.” First of all, one thing to note there is that I was a little kid and I was curious, which is the most wonderful thing about human beings. We’re all actually curious, but I think we learned to be less curious over time because of fear of saying something stupid or wrong. And I sure learned in that moment, the conversation went on a little bit, which I talk about in the book. But it ended up being a conversation that made me never want to ask a question again like that because the answer was so uncomfortable for me.

It continued to be about Indians, they got really dangerous and they were drunk. And my mother told me a terrible story about a drunken Indian who went on a rampage who killed a family. All of that I now understand is widespread mythology. And my mother wasn’t lying to me, but she was teaching me a version of history that she had been taught. I’m sitting here looking behind you at the state of Maine, behind you and thinking my family is an old Maine family. We got a land grant up in Houlton, Maine. And this entire state and this entire nation of what we now call the United States of America was once indigenous land for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of years. And that history was never taught to me. I was told that the Indians couldn’t handle liquor. Later, I think I learned that they couldn’t handle European disease. And so, there was a real manufactured myth of a people … oh, and that they lived in the wilderness, that they were uncivilized.

All of that is untrue, there is a really rich history of indigenous people’s in the United States, what became the United States. And unfortunately, there’s a really horrific story about what happened to their way of life and to the land that they were so attached to that has everything to do with people like my ancestors and descendants of my ancestors who were engaged in … We don’t talk about it, but it’s really a warfare akin to terrorism. Boy, that’s a lot we can unpack from that one question. I was right as a little child to wonder whatever happened to all the Indians and how sad for me I think that I got an answer that was by a well-intentioned woman with a lot of love in her heart that perpetuated myths that made me go on to continue to be in a state of ignorance.

Lisa Belisle:                          You also spend a fair amount of time talking about the sort of pull yourself up by your bootstraps, positive mentality that is really, it is actually a big part of I think white culture although maybe other cultures as well, but how damaging that really can be. This idea that if we just work really hard as individuals, then we are going to succeed. And that we should always put a happy smiley face on everything, but what if you’re from a cultural group that that’s not the way they approach things.

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. When you say not approach things, are you thinking about a culture where working … Are you thinking about different work ethics or you’re thinking about the way that that one phrase, that one framing can work differently for people across different groups?

Lisa Belisle:                          I think what I’m saying is when I’ve had conversations with people who are, for example, I’ll just say Italian. And my family, which is French and Irish, we’re a little bit more conservative in the way that we interact. But I’ve been in situations with an Italian family, and there’s high volumes, there’s a lot of back and forth, the conflict is dealt with in a very different way. And so, what may initially come across is a little overwhelming for me because I came from the let’s all be happy, let’s all be harmonic and let’s look at this in a really positive way. They do differently because they are working through things in a not let’s put a smiley face on something and just move forward.

Debbie Irving:                      Right. That feels a little different than bootstraps for me. What I hear you talking about is a cultural norm, what you experience in your household is what I experienced in mine, which is we’re going to put a happy face on, buck up, look on the bright side, be optimistic. That’s a cultural norm around avoiding conflict. And also, what goes hand-in-hand in that is the idea of emotional restraint. If you are unhappy or if you’re angry or sad, that’s not for public consumption, just go do that in private. I’m going to come back and behave a certain way in polite company or shared company or company, whatever you want to say, but it gets positioned.

What you and I experienced is very much aligned with what’s called the dominant white culture. And that’s the culture that we’re all asked to understand and engage within when we go into the classroom, when we go into workspaces, when we’re in a hospital setting, we’re in the bank getting a loan, there is a way of being that’s seen not only as one way of being, but as right. And so, for me growing up if I had seen that Italian, and I did see Italian families who would kind of knock-down, drag-out over things in their household,. And I was really judgmental about that, I didn’t see that as another cultural way of being or one that might even be healthier. I saw it as a flawed way of being, as people who weren’t emotionally restrained and hadn’t learned that avoiding conflict was actually the more civilized approach.

Yeah. What you’re starting to tap into with that question and that observation is the idea of cultural norms that can work really well if you’re raised at a house that fits that. And can work against you if you’re raised in a different kind of a household or if the norm is that we’re supposed to be conflict avoidant and emotionally restrained, think about the judgment I used to cast on black and brown people who were trying to say, “I’m experiencing discrimination, it feels terrible. And instead of being curious, now we’re back to curiosity and listening and saying, “Tell me more,” I would judge them for being angry, “You’re too angry, you’re complaining, you’re stirring the pot,” it’s comments like that that are keeping this problem alive.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think and I want to go back to the bootstrap thing because I think you’re right, it is a separate thing. But I also remember you saying that one of the ways that you would deal with people feeling discriminated against was just to say, “Oh, no. I don’t think that that’s what they meant.”

Debbie Irving:                      Right. Yeah. Someone would say to me, “My check didn’t get cashed at your corner store.” My thought wouldn’t be, “You’re kidding, wow. What? I’ve got to go investigate that.” It would be, “No, no, no, no. They do that because they’ve done that for me.” I was so stuck in my own experience as a universal experience is how I now understand that. I just couldn’t hear truths that I didn’t want to be truth. As it turns out, there was discrimination all around me, I could have observed, but I turned a blind eye to it. And I did have some colleagues and friends, superficial friends I now understand of color trying to share discriminatory moments with me and I just couldn’t hear it.

Lisa Belisle:                          When I hear what you’re saying, I have had experiences like this and gone back and looked at myself a few years back or even a few minutes back and it’s horrifying to me. I would never want to intentionally hurt someone or intentionally try to shut them down or intentionally, I don’t know, engage in this dominant culture that’s so hurtful. But it still happens, and it’s so uncomfortable.

Debbie Irving:                      I am 10 years into this, it was 10 years ago this month or maybe 9 years ago this month that I started taking that course, racial and cultural identity. I am 10 years into a 24/7 learning curve, and if you could see my hand, I am not changing it at all, it’s a black diamond uphill. I still do things, I still behave in ways. What’s different is that I know I’m surrounded by colleagues and friends of color, they’re not superficial relationships. And I do have people point out to me or I will feel that feeling in my stomach and realize I’ve said or done something that may be hurtful and might just be a sign of my ignorance. And so, that’s a difference that I can catch myself and that people I have trusting enough relationships where people will reflect back for me.

And I know never to be defensive even when that feeling arises. I know to say, “What just happened? This is a learning opportunity. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I know that? Why did I react that way?” That really never goes away, the only thing I think feels different for me is that I’m not even comfortable with the discomfort, but I’m tolerant of the discomfort and I really, really understand, “Okay. This is a moment to stick with it, learn.”

Lisa Belisle:                          Let’s talk about the bootstrap thing, which I think is really interesting because it’s this idea that, I think you put it out there as kind of a New England thing where if you just go in and you just work hard, you can make your way in life. And any success that you have gained is a result of your hard work. And that was something that you learned over time, that wasn’t entirely an accurate representation of reality.

Debbie Irving:                      No. Go to the Midwest and they think they’re the ones who invented the bootstraps theory, and I go to the West Coast and they think they’re the ones. And I went to Canada, they have it there too. The bootstraps theory is a universal, it’s part of what’s called United States master narrative. Every country has an identity and a story that they tell about themselves to themselves and to the outside world on a big piece of the American master narrative is that the playing field is level, that anybody can come here and just work hard and you can make it. And if the going gets tough, we’ve got bootstraps so we can pull ourselves up. It’s very much woven into that level playing field concept. And it’s where a lot of times you’ll hear the word, we’re a nation of immigrants, which I want a challenge.

We’re not a nation of immigrants, we are a nation of immigrants and enslaved Africans who were brought here against their will and indigenous peoples who were already living here, who are trying very, very hard and still fighting every day for our sovereignty and land rights. That’s who we are, a nation of not just immigrants. But that immigrant idea that you can come here, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that felt really real to me because I was surrounded, I grew up in Winchester, Mass, a white suburb and North of Boston. I was surrounded by families who had a story that went, “My great-grandparents came here from Italy, Ireland, Germany, France. They had two cents in their pocket, they didn’t speak a word of English, they were treated like dirt. And look at us now, a couple generations later. We worked hard and we made it, we achieved the American dream.”

The level playing field and the bootstraps theory of working hard really does work for a lot of people. In many ways, the United States and this great melting pot idea, the reason it’s problematic is that it excludes a lot of people who are so marginalized and targeted with barriers to not be able to access the American Dream that it makes them look like losers. It makes it look like they didn’t work hard enough, like they don’t want to work hard enough, like they want to live off the government. And so, it allows a whole group of immigrants who are able to eventually become white turn and judge and say, “My family did it, why can’t yours?” Without knowing all that’s gone down in terms of erecting and maintaining barriers to housing, lending, education, food supply, medical care, transportation that many communities of color experience that white people don’t even know about or have to know about.

Lisa Belisle:                          You gave the example of the GI Bill and how that meant different things to different people depending upon essentially their skin color.

Debbie Irving:                      Oh, my God, that blew me away. If I could say one thing that people say to me in the book blew them away, it’s that because there is this idea, this is again, that level playing field. The GI Bill, which for anyone listening GI was the term used for veteran after World War two. And the GI Bill was a set of benefits offered by the United States government to returning veterans, and it had a housing component and it had a higher ed component as well as a couple of others. My father went to Harvard Law School on that bill and my parents bought their first home in Winchester, Massachusetts for $17,000 on that bill. And I thought it was available to everyone, it turns out the GI Bill mostly excluded the black and brown GIs because there were 1.2 million black GIs, they were indigenous GIs, there were Latino GIs and there were Asian-American GIs.

And the reason black and brown GIs were mostly unable to access it wasn’t because it said it was a white only bill, it was because there were pre-existing barriers in our society. For instance, I’ll just speak to the housing piece. at the time, the federal housing authority when it created the mortgage in the 1930s and set out to develop the biggest part of the New Deal, a big housing expansion all across the United States. The mortgage was created to help facilitate that. And the mortgage said that private banks and some government lending agencies were suddenly going to be in the business of making loans to everyday people to go buy everyday homes. This is a completely new endeavor.

And the FHA said, “We want to be careful that all of us lenders manage our risk. And so, we’re going to think about what are good loans and what are bad loans.” And they created color-coded maps of cities and neighborhoods and towns that outlined who lived where according to racial lines. The practice was called redlining because outlined in red were neighborhoods where black and brown people lived and outlined in green were neighborhoods where only white people lived. Then there were two other gradations in between. And this all stemmed from one phrase, and the FHA guidelines that said the presence of even one or two non-white individuals can undermine real estate values.

That meant that keeping white neighborhoods white was the only way. In the imaginations of the people who constructed this policy that keeping white neighborhoods white was the only way to keep housing values maintained and escalate, maintained build equity in homes. The GI Bill was only good in white neighborhoods, so black and brown GIs could not use the housing portion of that. And you think about, “Well, yeah. That was back in the 1940s and here we are in 2018.” But the wealth transfer that happened, $120 billion went from government coffers into the hands of private individuals through the housing portion of the GI Bill. And that’s in 1940s dollars, and 98% of that went to white families like mine.

That house in Winchester that my parents bought, they upgraded at some point and bought a bigger house and then ultimately sold that for a million dollars, 40 years after that first $17,000 investment made possible by the government. And when you look at the white, black, or you could just call it the racial wealth gap today, you’d see how much more money white people have on average. Once I would have explained that as white people were harder working, smarter, more intelligent, more responsible with their money. And now, I just say it’s an inevitable outcome of policy after policy, I’ve just named one, policy after policy that’s diverted resources and rights and access to white people disproportionately.

Lisa Belisle:                          How did that feel to you when you learned that your family had benefited and you had benefited and other people weren’t benefiting from it given that you were studying this?

Debbie Irving:                      I felt duped, I felt really duped and angry. Because I really love the idea of a level playing field, I love the idea of being part of a country where it is a safe harbor, where people can come to this country like my Irish ancestors did from a time of famine and find a place, find a home and work really hard and make it. And when I realized that that American dream that I was so invested in really wasn’t available to everyone and that there was greed and mal-intent. It wasn’t just good people not knowing better that there was a lot of manipulation happening in ways that made me suddenly not proud to be a an American. And I go back and forth between that, there’s so many beautiful things about this country and yet we as a country are not living into, we’re not walking the talk.

And what bothers me much more is that there’s a denial of that. I said to my family at one of our holiday dinners, I said, “What’s worse, if somebody wrongs you or somebody goes on to deny the wrong?” And even the youngest kids at the table were able to, “Oh. If someone does something wrong and admits it, you can fix it. But if they deny it, that makes it so much worse. And that’s what I’m really stuck on, that’s the work I’m doing is to try to figure out how to move white people to owning what we, now we’re back to that first question white identity, why people don’t want to own it or why it might be uncomfortable.

There’s a really tragic history inflicted on many people by not every white person, but by this whole idea of white as a race, whiteness as a way of being. And it’s just harming so many people, and I would argue it’s even harming white people.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’m fortunate because I have children who are in various levels of education. And so, I’ve been able to through them to see this evolution in how we are approaching education on subjects like, I don’t know, let’s say imperialism. But it also creates a lot of questions for me because, for example, I live in Yarmouth and Yarmouth is a town that had a lot of Native Americans at one point. And a lot of friction happened and there were people who came to settle the land and there was fighting and people died as a result of it. The Native Americans became known as the ones who had done the bad deed. And now we have a settler cemetery, the narrative is that here’s all this violent stuff with these violent Native Americans and they wouldn’t just give us the land.

As I’m trying to even make, I was trying to just do an Instagram post about a cemetery that I ran past. I didn’t even know what to call it because it’s not really the settler cemetery, does this make sense?

Debbie Irving:                      Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          We don’t even really have labels around a history anymore because it’s almost so unclear as to how we’re supposed to interpret things now.

Debbie Irving:                      Yes. This is a little bit like the game of telephone, we are so many generations removed now from what actually happened. And we rely on, the winners tell the history it’s part of that. But even then as if the history has just gone away, it’s whitewashed in a way that it’s amnesiatic. I think sometimes when I talk to people about trying to just be curious enough to understand what you don’t know, I think about, Imagine walking into a party and something terrible happened there two hours ago, but you have no idea that it happened and no one’s talking about it. But the dynamics and the tensions in the space are still going to be there, that’s what’s happening in this country. All of the dynamics born of that are still among us, it’s why we tell the history we do, it’s why we get anxious and fearful and defensive and sometimes violent when the history gets questioned. But we’ve got to go back to that original history so that we don’t repeat it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I enjoyed your book quite a lot, I’m glad that I took the time to listen to it. It was an audio book, so it was fun to listen to the voice that I’m now talking to. I’ve been speaking with Debby Irving who is a racial justice educator, author and public speaker. Also, the author of Waking Up White, a book that tracks her journey unpacking her white identity. For anyone who’s interested, it’s an uncomfortable read, but it’s extremely educational. And I came away feeling a lot more curious, and I tend to be curious anyway. I appreciate your coming in, thank you.

Debbie Irving:                      Yeah. Thanks for having me, it’s been great.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Donna Dwyer is the CEO of the My Place Teen Center, a youth development program based on Westbrook. Thanks for coming in.

Donna Dwyer:                     Thank you, excited to be here.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, we’re excited to have you, you are doing some very important work at the My Place Teen Center.

Donna Dwyer:                     We are. It’s integral work, it’s hard work, it’s gritty work and it’s hard work. And the work with that we’re doing is we’re working with kids ages 10 to 18, they can come from anywhere in Maine as long. As they can get through our red doors, they can come. And basically, the kids will even tell you this, which is a little astonishing in its truth, but they come there to be safe. And we feed them, we take care of them for five hours a day every day of the week, after school, through the summertime. And it’s a academic excellence and character development, life skills program.

Lisa Belisle:                          When did you decide that you wanted to work in this area because this is a gritty area, this is not an easy area? You have lots of nonprofit and for-profit leadership experience, why did you pick this one?

Donna Dwyer:                     Well, I really didn’t. I was lured into it and compelled. And that’s the story that I would like to share as to why I am so honored to do this job. I was looking for executive director jobs back in 2011, the winter of 2011 and this was one of them. And I thought, “Oh, well, I’ll apply for it, but I don’t think this will be challenging enough for me.” I went on the interviews and the interviews kept on happening and they kept on whittling down the candidates and whatnot. And I was looking at other jobs as well that we’re nonprofit but much more business oriented type of acumen that was required. But then the final layer of interviews actually were with the kids.

If you can imagine for a moment I’m walking into this building, it’s a former United Methodist Church on Main Street in Westbrook. The outside and the inside was completely dilapidated, falling in on itself, the 17 couches that they had there were all falling apart, it was dirty. This at that time was a 13 year old organization. And the organization was on its last legs, frankly. When I walked into the building, I thought, “This is going to take such effort to be a change agent for this organization. Do I really want to put the physical exertion much less the intellectual exertion into this organization?”

But then this interview came, and there was a young woman named Cassie who led the process. And she was the ringleader of all these kids, she’s 17 years old, there were about 25 kids sitting on these broken-down couches. I sort of sat down on this couch where a spring was sticking out of it and they started asking me questions. And the questions were, “Are you going to be mean? Will you still take us on field trips? What kind of a person are you anyway?” And so, I answered those questions and I just found them to be so intriguing. And then Cassie asked this question with this blonde hair, dimples, blue eyes and she said these words to me, “Do you have the skillset to keep the doors open so that my brother coming up behind me will still be able to come?”

And when she asked me, do I have the skillset, I thought, “Wow, this girl has it going on.” I told her, I did have the skillset. And then when I found out who she really was, that at 17 she had been homeless since she was 13. She was a child of parents who are substance users, she frequently ran out of clothing because her mother would sell her clothing for drugs, that food was an issue. And on that first day when I got to know her, I noticed that despite her smile and her gleeful ways and the way she conducted herself, her hands were tremoring the entire time. And that was from anxiety because Cassie carried a backpack with her. And in that backpack was her life belongings.

Most kids carry their L.L.Bean backpack with schoolbooks, their lunch. Cassie carries her backpack with her belongings in it. And so, when I left that interview, I had never had such a strong reaction. But I said to myself, “I must have this job, please give me this job.” And thankfully, they did.

Lisa Belisle:                          What were you doing before? What was the thing that led you to the place where you were looking for a new position?

Donna Dwyer:                     My passion for a long time has been kids with disabilities, but I took a brief break. I have a child with a disability, so obviously my heart tugs at that population. But I took a brief break and went to graduate school and got three graduate degrees, one of them being an MBA. And during the MBA process, we learned from entrepreneurs who always told us to follow your passion. Well, my passion is tennis. And I play tennis six or seven days a week, I have to play tennis. Physically and emotionally, I have to play tennis just like you probably have to run. And so, I thought to myself, “Well, tennis is my passion. I have a good mind for business, I’m going to put together a multi-sport athletic club.”

During this MBA process, this was for four years, I put together a business plan working on a $48 million, 150,000 square foot multi-purpose, multi-sport athletic club to be housed in Scarborough. And then what happened in 2008? The market crashed. And so, we continued to work on this business model for a couple more years, but because of the largesse of this process, I couldn’t get it off the ground past the second seed of funding. Then I thought, “Well, I’m going to go back to my love, which is social services. I know that area, I can do a good job in that area. And I think I can make a difference.” And that’s what led me to My Place Teen Center, Cassie and My Place Teen Center.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think I need to back up a little bit, you have three graduate degrees?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes. Because I got them mostly all for free so why not keep going. I started at USM to get a special ed degree, a master’s in special ed so that I could be a better mother, frankly. When my son was born, I didn’t have the skill set to be the parent of a child with a disability. He had significant health needs, significant cognitive needs and I wasn’t prepared. And so, when he turned four, I decided I’m going to go back to school and see if I can make a difference. And I knew that advocacy was going to be a huge part of his development and I needed to step up to the plate. I thought, “Well, I don’t think I have the time to go be a medical doctor, go back to school for that.” I thought what else would impact him ? And his schooling would impact him, I thought, “I need to learn the same skillset that the teachers and the administrators need to learn.”

From that vantage point, I went to get my special ed degree. And then I got an administration degree because I wanted to know what it was like to be a principal. Again, never in real practice, never in real theory, never wanted to be a teacher, just wanted to be a better mother. And then I started to work in the field, an advocate in the field. And then I thought, “Well, at some point soon, I know that my natural inclination is to be a leader. How can I be a better leader? I better go get an MBA.” And so, what happened was I worked at the school so I got my classes for free, and then I got a huge scholarship. For three master’s degrees, I paid $600. That’s why I kept on going.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s amazing. Well, $600, that’s also amazing. But you are a mother of a child with a disability, which is enormously time consuming from my understanding and you were working. And you said, “Oh, I think I just want to get some more education.”

Donna Dwyer:                     I’ve always been compelled to be the best that I can be. And I knew that to be the best mother I could be, I had to be a better mother. And that’s the path that I chose to give me the confidence to do what was right for him. And also being an adult learner is amazing and awesome, and I loved every minute of it. It was hard especially the MBA, I was a fish out of water. I was sitting in a classroom with engineers and accountants, and I really don’t have that type of mind. But the challenge in of itself was part of the work, just the challenge was part of the growth.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me about the My Place Teen Center, what types of things do you work with on a day-to-day basis?

Donna Dwyer:                     First and foremost, we serve kids, and that is such a simple word, “Okay, you serve kids.” But they’re very complex and intricate, and especially the middle school level where the executive functioning in their brain isn’t fully formed. Their decision-making can either take them one way or the other. And this particular population that we’re working with, they are surrounded by a daily lexicon probably which you and I were never surrounded with growing up. And their lexicon, ” My dad’s in the jail, my mother had a needle sticking out of her arm. We don’t have enough food in the cupboards. I don’t know where I’m going to sleep, I don’t have a bed. I don’t have winter boots, I don’t have a coat.”

This is their daily existence. If they’re first dealing with themselves as a kid trying to blossom or just trying to survive and then they are dealing with these trauma related behaviors, incidences worrying about their own parents, and in some instances being a parent in the home, they have a choice. And the choice is so perilous and close to one another that they can go on the path like their past, like their present, like what they’re surrounded with. Or they can be given the courage and nurtured, the gripped and instilled the accountability to be able to go on a different path. And so, our levels of success with our kids take many shapes and sizes and forms. The most obvious is you want the kids to graduate first of all, and then you want them to go on to higher education or the army or get a job.

But some of our kids are living in such a state of perilousness that their level of success, for example, is a guy, a young man we’ve been following since he was 13 years old. We’re a 20 year old organization, he’s now 28. And for him, he has significant anxiety, he had significant learning disabilities. And he lived with a mom who has severe mental health issues. From a very young age, they worried about heat in their home, think about several weeks ago when we had that negative 14, negative 15. They worried about heat in their home. And so, here’s this guy who did end up graduating high school, his claim to fame that he’s very, very proud of and we’re proud of him is he is the lead salad bar manager for Ruby Tuesday’s. Yet here’s what else we know about him, he’s never been on government assistance, he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t need it. He wants to earn his own way, he provides for his mother.

And last winter on one of his shifts when he came home from work, he found her with a cord around her neck. She went into P6 for several months, and he’s still working at Ruby Tuesday’s. He takes his mother, she’s out of there now, she’s stable. But here’s this guy who struggled in school, has his own anxiety, he’s taking care of his mom and he’s a contributing member of our community and society. That’s his success story.

Lisa Belisle:                          How do you help people to choose a different path because the draw of the familiar is so strong, the patterning that they’ve experienced is so significant in their young lives that to go in a different direction that requires an enormous amount of strength and probably a lot of help?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes. And it’s relentless and it’s never ending. Deliberately, we have set up our physical environment to mimic a home. From the moment you step on our property, there’s a white picket fence. In the spring, summer and fall there are beautiful gardens surrounding the building. There’s an American flag waving and there are beckoning doors for them to come through. We’ve decorated unlike any other teen center I’ve ever seen, we decorate it with art, with knickknacks, with comfortable furniture, a living room type feel. We also provide dinners to them every day so they can eat and get a really good nutritious full meal every single day. That’s one way that we do it.

Then we treat them with a lot of love. And our philosophy is love first in all instances and firm when we need to be, like parents. And the third way is through sheer will and determination is that we give these kids lots and lots, and lots of chances because we all make lots of mistakes, and these kids are no different. And so, we meet them where they’re at. That’s kind of a trite saying, a lot of people say that, we meet people where they’re at. But if you’re meeting them when they’re in the most raw, they’re the most vulnerable, they’re the most gritty and they’re there most opportunity for resilience to be immersed in them.

We are compelled, it is our passion to make a difference in these kids lives, our heart calls to them.

Lisa Belisle:                          You grew up in Cape Elizabeth. And that is known to be probably one of the more financially economically advantaged communities in the state of Maine. And yet, there are people who live in Cape Elizabeth who don’t have as much as other people do. Your organization is based in Westbrook and it has a very different demographic. And this is kind of a theoretical question, but how would somebody from Cape Elizabeth who had needs access the type of programming that you offer out in Westbrook?

Donna Dwyer:                     Meaning if a kid from Cape Elizabeth wanted to come?

Lisa Belisle:                          Yes.

Donna Dwyer:                     They can come. If they can get transportation to come there, they can come. Do they come? No, they don’t come. Kids from Cape typically do not come, Falmouth do not come, South Portland comes, Portland comes, Gorham comes, Standish comes, certainly Westbrook comes. Our barriers, there are none except you have to be a kid to come through our doors, but any kid from anywhere can come. What you’re seeing is, and I’ve gone to present up in Falmouth to the rotary a couple of times, that’s 10 minutes away from us. And I’ve said to them, and it was at dinnertime when I presented at their meeting, and I said to them, “10 minutes from these doors, 10 minutes from here are kids 35, 40 kids right now eating dinner that would not be eating.”

When you go to meetings, there’s always spreads of foods or events there spreads of food. And I always think to myself, “I don’t take this food for granted, I don’t take this spread for granted because I know that my kids don’t have access to that unless they come to us.” I will say this though, what I know for sure is that all kids, it doesn’t matter from where you’re from are at risk because if you don’t have an appropriate adult role model in your life, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or you don’t have. If you don’t have an appropriate adult role model that can be that beacon, that harbinger of hope, then you are at risk.

And so, kids who come from impoverished backgrounds can have an appropriate parent in their life, an appropriate adult role model. The wealth doesn’t make or break whether or not a kid and, I know you know this, whether or not they have success. Do they have opportunity and access to a lot more advantages? Yes. Do they maybe take advantage or feel like maybe there’s not the same level of gratitude that maybe the kids that come through the Teen Center doors versus kids who get it handed to them on a silver platter. That can be a barrier. And our kids notice that, they notice other kids’ clothes. They notice that other families sit down to dinner, but their’s don’t, they notice those things and it matters to them.

Lisa Belisle:                          If you are a kid that needs this sort of help, but you live in a community where for whatever reason Falmouth or Cape Elizabeth or Yarmouth or Cumberland, there’s just some reason why you’re not going for help. What is it that those of us around you can be doing? Does this question make sense?

Donna Dwyer:                     Yes, it does. We have caregivers, other providers specifically kids with disabilities that will bring autism or maybe some mental health issues. They’ll actually bring our kids, there’s the two kids coming from Gray on a regular basis that will bring kids through our doors. But just a kid who’s feeling a little lost maybe not connected in an extracurricular way or some peer group, a healthy peer group. I think it’s up to the adults, the guidance counselors, social workers, the parents to say, “Hey, there’s a safe place after school, they keep the kids busy.” The kids may not know that we are imbuing them with character development and life skills, but we certainly are.

I think it’s up to the adults surrounding this kid whether it be a school adult or a parent adult didn’t know the resources in the community. And for us, I said we’re not just for Westbrook, we are for any kid from any community anywhere at any time.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that the challenges for children in this age group are different now than they once were?

Donna Dwyer:                     I do. And I think it’s different even in the six years that I’ve been with the center. And how it’s different truly I think is that the level of poverty is getting deeper. And I think that the opioid epidemic is prevalent, pervasive and poisonous and has a ripple effect on so many levels. And I noticed a change in my kids, not the ones that we’ve had for a while now, but the ones that are coming through the doors where there’s almost a sense of frailness to them that the level of desperation and the level of need that is available. Earlier in the summer, we had a field day where we invited families and the kids and we were just out, cookout and whatnot. And given this group for a number of reasons, parents aren’t often involved, the kids don’t want them there. Maybe the parents don’t want to be involved, so there’s a variety of reasons. This is the age group, did you want your parents around when you were in middle school or high school? No, you really didn’t.

These kids feel the same way. But I got to meet some of the families. And there were some of the parents that came and they were high. They were high in the middle of the day. And we had extra food, and not only were they eating that food, which was absolutely appropriate, but they wanted to take that food home with them, which was fine as well. But I got to see these parents in the state that the kids live with high day in and day out. And it reminded me why these kids are the way they are and what we have to do to change their paradigm, which is everything we can do.

Lisa Belisle:                          What keeps you going because this is not an easy job, and the word grit has been used a few times? This is a difficult situation, sometimes I’m sure you don’t have the successes you’d like to have. What keeps you showing up for work every day and investing in these children?

Donna Dwyer:                     I think I was raised with a work ethic, which was different from a lot of my Cape Elizabeth friends and peers. My parents instill a work ethic from a very young age, weekends were not for watching cartoons or sleepovers, we worked cleaning and for my grandmother, we constantly worked. Work ethic and a discipline was instilled in us from an early age. I had that inherent within me. This is heart work because you’re not in this to make the big bucks, you’re in this to change lives and in some instances save lives. And so, when that is presented in front of you, there really is no choice except to keep moving forward and to keep working it. And even when mistakes are made, to never give up.

And so, that is the discipline that we apply to ourselves and to keep us going and motivated that no matter what to keep going because even the organization itself is a successful thriving organization. We’ve really done a lot of really hard work in the past six years to change everything about the organization. But the organization lives hand to mouth too, funding is incredibly arduous for us and very fickle. And we’re always relying on the benevolence of others to change kids’ lives, to save lives. And believe it or not, a lot of people say no to us. Getting through that is the resilience that’s required of my team and myself is to have the resilience that even when you say no to me, you are going to say yes to me at some point.

I will knock down a brick wall. No means yes in my world, in my lexicon. And at some point, I will get a yes out of you, you will say yes to these kids. That’s the resilience that I require of myself and my staff. And then I play tennis six or seven days a week, and I’m a competitive tennis player. I captain teams, I compete. And that keeps me in this job and in this life and having my own hutzpah to make a difference.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I appreciate the work that you’re doing and the work that everybody at the My Place Teen Center is doing and I encourage people to learn more about My Place. And consider donating because if you don’t, Donna will find you and she will tell you more about her organization and you will be convinced, I’m certain of it.

Donna Dwyer:                     Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Belisle:                          I appreciate you coming in today. I’ve been speaking with Donna Dwyer who is the CEO of the My Place Teen Center, a youth development program based in Westbrook. Thank you so much for all you do.

Donna Dwyer:                     We are thrilled and thank you so much for the opportunity.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street, the gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingen Jorgenson, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Cory, Jill hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com. Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s old port where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 339. Our guests have included Debbie Irving and Donna Dwyer. For more information on our guests and extended interviews visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio, we welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee, our editorial producer is Kate Gardner, our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassik. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy. And our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #338: Lori Parham and Carolann Ouellette

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr.Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor-in-chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless and Moxie Magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 338, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 11th, 2018. Today we speak with Lori Parham, State Director of AARP Maine. We also speak with Carolann Ouellette, Executive Director of Maine Huts and Trails who previously served as the Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Lori Parham is the AARP Maine’s State Director, leading the state’s advocacy and education efforts on health and financial security issues. She also oversees the organization’s efforts to engage cities and towns in creating livable communities for people of old ages with a specific focus on economic development and aging in place. Thanks for coming in today.

Lori Parham:                        It’s great to be here.

Lisa Belisle:                          I really love the work that you are doing with AARP because I think it’s a different approach than we typically see when we talk about longevity of life.

Lori Parham:                        Absolutely. We still have challenges when we talk about aging. There’s still a lot of assumptions around what it means to grow old or to be old, and even to talk about what that word means. At AARP and especially here in Maine we’re really working to change perceptions of aging and share the stories of people over 50 in the state who are doing amazing things.

Lisa Belisle:                          One of the interesting things for me having worked recently on our new Ageless Magazine is that people over the age of 50 are they’re not necessarily retired. They’re still working and in fact, a lot of people, my dad is 72, my mom is I think the same age, both of them are still actively working no less than they once were 20 years ago.

Lori Parham:                        That’s why we’re just AARP, we’re no longer the American Association of Retired Persons and we haven’t been for some time because a third of our members are still working. It’s not just folks between the ages of 50 and 64. We often hear people say, “I’m retiring at 65,” but as you said, people are working longer either because they really love being engaged and involved and want to and some because they don’t have a choice. They haven’t been able to put away enough for retirement and so they have to keep working in order to pay the bills and make sure that they will be secure in retirement.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve seen both of these things be true. I’ve seen both my parents be enthusiastically still teaching. My mom in middle school and my dad teaching medical students and residents and I ask them, “When are you going to retire?” They say, “Why? Why should I do that?” Then I also have had patients who have needed to either go back into the workforce or who have never been able to leave the workforce who are in their 70s and sometimes in their 80s. That leads to some interesting challenges though.

Lori Parham:                        It really does and we see both in Maine. Maine as the oldest state can really be a wonderful test case for aging and aging policy and workplace policy. We hear a lot of folks in Maine say, “We need to bring more young people to Maine.” I like to say AARP loves young people or members who have children, they have grandchildren, but there’s a lot of talent amongst people over 50. People between the ages of 50 and 64 are the largest growing age group of entrepreneurs and in Maine entrepreneurialism is so important and yet there is the demographic who is struggling. When we have surveyed older people in Maine a large number of them tell us they don’t know that they’ll ever be able to retire, that they will have to keep working.

Baby boomers have not saved the way they really needed to. Many people don’t understand that in retirement just to cover healthcare cost you need as much as $250,000 in savings. It’s really juggling the challenges that folks have but then also with that talking about the opportunities and the amazing things that people are doing. The fact that your dad is still teaching medical students, that’s such a wonderful thing especially in healthcare and there’s such a need.

Lisa Belisle:                          In addition to your undergraduate degree in sociology, you also have a masters in science and a PhD, so you are very well-versed in the academics of this. Why did you choose to focus your efforts on the aging community?

Lori Parham:                        I think in part because growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers. My grandfathers both passed away very young and left families and one case with pretty young children. My grandmothers became fast friends and were part of my life from a very early age and I think I was comfortable around what was considered older people. As I looked into the issue surrounding aging and retirement, especially for women I just really became excited about the policy work and have been truly passionate about it ever since.

Lisa Belisle:                          Talk to me about some of the issues that women are facing.

Lori Parham:                        Well, a big one is caregiving. Men and women both care for aging parents but the majority of the work and this is unpaid work by daughters and wives and sisters is done by women. When you look at now especially with the aging of the baby boomers and if you look at Maine’s population, more and more women are falling into this category and as we project out there’s going to be more and more need. Often these women are also raising children. We call them the sandwich generation. They may have to leave the workforce in order to care for an aging parent which impacts their own ability to save to get those social security credits and to prepare for their own retirement. There are specific and special challenges as it relates to aging and long-term care for women as they care for others and then as they look at how they’re going to care for themselves.

That’s an area where we focus, also making sure that any caregiver has the resources they need. Where do you begin when something happens? Most of us don’t plan and then all of a sudden there’s a catastrophic event and how do we manage that. Then it ties into broader issues. We were talking about work, work and retirement, the ability to save, to find jobs that allow you to save. In Maine, we looked at some research to see how the folks in the state were saving and we’re way behind and not just amongst people over 50 but with our younger generations as well. There are a lot of issues, pretty intense policy issues to think about that hit a lot of sectors as we’re looking at what it means to grow old.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why is it that you think there is such resistance to a conversation about aging?

Lori Parham:                        It’s such a great question. Our CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins actually wrote a book and has really made it her mission to what she calls disrupt aging. The stereotypes go back a long way. When we think about pre-AARP, we’re 60 this year, the fact that older Americans really had no access to healthcare and retirement, medicare didn’t exist, [recast 00:09:10] historical stories about poor houses and where we placed older people. We’ve just really allowed those stereotypes to continue whether it’s actresses who are aged out of acting. The debate over gray hair or not. The assumptions that old means you’re walking around with a cane and can barely make it up the stairs. Yet you see how that’s just not necessarily the case but it takes … It’s language, it’s attitude, it’s education. It’s a constant effort to try to change the way we think about it. I get all the time, “Oh, I don’t feel old. You’re AARP, 50, really? For us age is just a number.” Our founder was 73 when she founded this great organization, but it’s not easy, it’s a constant battle.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s interesting to me that in this day and age we are more aware of people of different nationalities, we’re more aware of gender and not discriminating against people based on that, sexual orientation, I mean, the list goes on our awareness of all these things that we don’t want to be considered ist. We don’t want to be racist, for example. Isn’t not having an openness about people who are older, isn’t that just ageist? Isn’t that just another group for us to discriminate against?

Lori Parham:                        It is. It is, and it’s been fun through our work on disrupting aging, and Jo Ann, she decided to tackle this because I think she saw the potential across everything else we work on. We’ve got a wonderful video of millennials showing what they think it means to be old and the basic walking with a cane and then they bring in to each one of these individuals an older person who is a dancer or a boxer and these are folks in their 70s, 80s and 90s and just to see the light bulb go off for these young people was pretty amazing. It’s really going to take I think an ongoing concerted effort. We hear a lot about how baby boomers are really going to change these perceptions but when they’re all around you, radio, TV, ad campaigns, it’s going to take a concerted effort I think across sectors to really see change.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why is aging in place important?

Lori Parham:                        First and foremost, we know that’s where people want to be and when we say aging in place we mean at home and in the community. As folks grow older, if they have a choice between institutional care and the community they love, they want to be in the community even if they can’t be in their own home, they want to be right there. Especially in Maine where community is so important. It’s what people want. It also is good for local economies. The longer people stay at home and in the communities they love, the more they’re involved and active in civic life and social life. They’re spending money in their communities. My grandmother who I lost just a year ago, if she didn’t get her hair done every week, that was the most important thing and that was helping a local business and there are a lot of folks like her.

It really does help build that sense of community. Social participation is so important. We have new research out of our foundation that shows the social isolation really can decrease longevity and that that’s so important for people to be connected. Being able to spend those last years your final years at a place that is safe but connected is just really important to people.

Lisa Belisle:                          I absolutely have seen this as a doctor, the patients that come in to see me who don’t have close family members, who may be have moved to the community relatively recently don’t have close friends, the loneliness that they feel it absolutely impacts not only their emotional and psychological health but their physical health. It has this far-reaching implication that I think it’s important for us to address.

Lori Parham:                        Absolutely, isolation is the leading cause for dementia as well and we hear from people. We have started hosting social events, coffees and happy hours to help bring people together and the number of folks who’ve said, “I just moved here,” or, “I just retired, I’m having to build a new network and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to meet other people like me,” and we’re seeing friendships develop and more interest in taking those activities even further. We’re doing what we can to help build the social connections where we can because no one should age alone.

Lisa Belisle:                          Talk to me about age-friendly communities. What types of things would such a community offer to someone who is attempting to age in place?

Lori Parham:                        The work that we’re doing in the age-friendly space is really situated around multiple domains of livability we call them. Everything from affordable housing and not just low income housing but middle income housing and also housing that’s accessible that’s near services. You think of Maine and how rural we are and how difficult it could be for an older person who’s way down along the road in a big rambling farmhouse, that doesn’t make it very easy to be connected. Transportation which ties into that, the ability to get around when you should no longer be driving and access to, if you’re in a very rural area and you don’t have the services that a metro would provide, ways to get places whether it’s through a volunteer program or other. Social participation, what are the kinds of activities that a community has to bring people together.

I should emphasize that an age-friendly community isn’t just for, “older people.” Our view is that the kinds of services and support you put into place for someone over 50 or over 65 is just as good for young family. If you think about public spaces and parks and playgrounds and trails and exercise equipment, if you think about sidewalks, making sure the snow is cleared in the winter, that’s good for an older person who may walk with a cane or just walk more slowly or have a little trouble with balance but it’s good for a young mother who’s also carrying one child and pushing a stroller.

Civic engagement and employment, whether it’s mentoring or recognizing the value that people over 50 bring to the workforce and looking at policies and programs that support the 50 plus worker who may be caregiving for example so flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, looking at different types of leave that support a caregiver who may need to take time off. It’s really a range of policies. We like to talk about broadband and how disconnected a lot of Maine is, that’s another important issue that really come together to make a community more age-friendly. Of course, if you’re Portland, it’s going to look different than it will in Bethel or Skowhegan and so you’ve got to take in account the close community ties as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          Are there benefits to having multiple generations interacting on a regular basis?

Lori Parham:                        We see in some of the programs that we’re seeing across the country, we’ll take the workplace for example, there’s been some good research that shows a multi generational workforce is good for business. There’s a good return on investment because you have different attitudes, different approaches, the ability for people to mentor, older people to mentor younger. Also, vice verse. Let’s think about technology. Also, we see that in the area of social isolation and connectedness too. There’s a real movement to think about housing and supports community where you could have an after school program tied to a community center where retirees may go for art classes.

Also, looking at how the two generations can mentor each other outside of the workforce. We’ve got this great program going on in Augusta where the age-friendly committee, all retirees, is working with the girls and boys club teaching them sewing. This is a skill that they’re using to sew hats and gloves and scarves for people who need an extra layer in the winter. Whether or not this group of kids ends up taking on sewing as a career, it’s a skill, it’s tactical, it’s a place to focus energy and through that time together they’re connecting with folks they may not have otherwise connected with. Hearing their stories, maybe getting a little bit of advice.

Lisa Belisle:                          You mentioned that you have a comfort level with people who are older starting with your grandmothers when you were a child, why is it that some people don’t have a comfort with older people?

Lori Parham:                        That’s a really good question. It could be that they never had the opportunity like I did to spend time around people who are older. I think there can be some fear. It can be difficult to watch people grow old especially if they have chronic health issues, that can be scary, I’m just going to say that. It can be easier to avoid that. While any of us can be impacted at any age, we tend to associate old age with end of life and that’s part of I think looking at how we can reframe that. That just because you’re growing older doesn’t mean your life is ending. What I love about Ageless Maine is the opportunity to profile some of these people in Maine who may be 70, 80, 90 but are still active or engaged in giving back. When you can spend time with them I think some of that fear goes away.

Lisa Belisle:                          I actually found when I was working on Ageless Maine with the rest of the editorial team that there were many people that we were talking about that were probably healthier than a lot of people who are far younger because they were so engaged and they were so passionate about the things that they were doing. Whether it was the woman that I wrote about for the wearable technology story or whether it was the woodchuck story that Susan Axelrod wrote. I think it’s often said that age is just a state of mind. I’m not sure that’s exactly true but I certainly do believe that there’s a way that we can look at things that influences the way that we live.

Lori Parham:                        I would agree and the woodchuck and that was just such a lovely story. Think about the social connectedness there. These gentlemen are physically active in state and then a community they clearly love, they’re doing this work together. We also know the benefits of volunteering, they’re doing something for other people. You put those together and that’s a really good combination for longevity. Sometimes I think I’m probably healthier now than I was when I was 20 or probably even 30 and I think sometimes it takes a little time to recognize how to prioritize and where to focus. Sadly, there are folks who are older who really are struggling with chronic illness and disease. Then there’s also the question of what are the policies, what can be done to make sure that those patients you see can get some relief and that we can start to address some of those issues sooner in Maine and frankly across the country.

Lisa Belisle:                          That is an important point that aging can really manifest itself in many different ways so I think because a lot of older people when they’re feeling healthy they don’t come to the doctor. I will see older people who come to see me and they will often say it is very difficult to get old. It is really hard because it seems like one thing after another, after another. They feel as if their bodies are failing them. It can be very expensive. They spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices. I agree that trying to find a way to support them through all of this is going to present different challenges than it might if it was a younger person accessing the healthcare system. What can we do specifically in healthcare to help people who are trying to work through aging?

Lori Parham:                        We hear a lot about prevention and when I talk about Medicare to folks in the community and to our members and the importance of insuring that people are going to the doctor, that they are getting that primary care, the more we do to stave off diabetes for example which cost the Medicare program billions of dollars then that’s going to help the sustainability of the program which will invest more dollars into those preventative measures. It’s the healthcare component and boy, that could be a conversation for multiple hours but that’s why we’re also looking at the community component. Health and supportive services are one of the domains that we look at in communities. Outside of government programs depending on what you have for insurance, that can be very expensive. What can you be doing and what can a community offer through public spaces and parks.

I love that our colleagues in Bethel have an indoor walking program in winter for older people to make sure that they’re still getting exercise. We decided to host a Tai chi class because we had a volunteer willing to teach it and we’re amazed at how many people came out. There are a lot of no cost, low cost things that communities can do to offer and granted that’s just the wellness piece. It’s not going to solve all of the problems but there’s a lot of great research out there that says if you get up and you move, if you’re a little more thoughtful about what you eat, if you get up and you move but you do it with a friend in terms of your mental health that that could have a really positive impact on a longer life and a healthier life.

Lisa Belisle:                          Obviously there are a lot of different places that you could focus because this is an enormous topic. What is one thing that you would like to see changed as regards to aging?

Lori Parham:                        Goodness. There’s enough out there that I should be able to work for a very long time. I love the work that we’re doing in communities because it’s bigger than just healthcare. As I look at the aging of Maine, as I hear debates about Maine’s economy and what the state needs, I continue and really believe not just because I work for AARP to make the case that people over 50 are hugely important to Maine and the economy. We’ve done some work with Oxford Economics nationally on the longevity economy and this is the purchasing power and the GDP of people over 50. They’re buying more in tech believe it or not. They pay more in healthcare. They give back more charitably. They’re paying more in taxes.

That age group is hugely important. Their children are the millennials and research shows that they want a lot of the same things. Access to be able to walk to where you want to go, public spaces, cultural activities, music. When I think about this body of work, if we can get out of a mindset that it’s just about older people, that it can turn some people off in some sectors. We talk about how that infrastructure can then impact the next generation and the next generation. I think that makes for a really exciting future of Maine. There are so many issues to tackle and we’ll continue to work on all of them but I’m really excited about this work because it involves people in community and it showcases how deeply people care about where they live.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Lori Parham who is the AARP Maine’s State Director leading the state’s advocacy and education efforts on health and financial security issues. She also oversees the organization’s efforts to engage cities and towns in creating livable communities for people of old ages with a specific focus on economic development and aging in place. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing and for coming in today.

Lori Parham:                        It’s great talking with you.

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Lisa Belisle:                          Carolann Ouellette joined Maine Huts and Trails as Executive Director in January of 2017 and she previously served as Director at the Maine Office of Tourism. Thanks for coming in.

Carolann O.:                         Thanks so much for having me. This is great.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think they were pretty sad to see you go from the Maine Office of Tourism from what I understand.

Carolann O.:                         That’s always nice to have a legacy like that. Certainly, it was an amazing opportunity for me and an incredible team, everything from the internal team to all the people in the industry across the state and even the people that we worked with under contract, just really creative, energetic, passionate people about Maine which was made it so much fun.

Lisa Belisle:                          What I guess convinced you that you should jump over to Maine Huts and Trails?

Carolann O.:                         That’s a great question. I give lot of the credit of the convincing to quite honestly our board chair, Bob Peixotto who spent quite a bit of time talking to me about Maine Huts and Trails and the opportunities, and the place in which it sits now as having been really open to the public for 10 years but it was really for me a love of that whole western mountains region of Maine. I’ve been a resident of Jackman for almost 30 years with a few stints in Millinocket and Sugarloaf, but that’s always Maine holds a special place overall but that kind of area from the New Hampshire border up across from Moosehead and out towards Millinocket has always held a very special spot in my heart.

It was a big of a challenge to take an opportunity of really taking all that I had learned from the marketing perspective, the connectivity, all the networking, all the people that I had met at my time at the office of tourism and really kind of put almost theory into practice. Taking bits and pieces of experiences throughout my lifetime, everything from the time at Cornell, at the hotel school through working for Matt Polstein at New England Outdoor Center, running my own restaurant, there were all these tidbits of experiences that really covered everything that is Maine Huts and Trails with some new challenges on top of it.

Lisa Belisle:                          I want to ask you about the new challenges but first I’m interested in why you decided that you want to go to Cornell, to the school of hotel administration.

Carolann O.:                         I was looking at a few schools. It really ended up being fortuitous in the sense that I originally wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps and be a pilot. That just wasn’t working out the way I had planned originally in high school. I got my license but didn’t go a whole lot further. Cornell, it had a lot of allure just from the size of the school itself. Obviously, I was fortunate to be accepted to an Ivy League school but it was one of the ones that had in my mind the broader diversity across the different campuses and the different colleges within the university. I didn’t originally go for the hotel school. I wanted to do international relations and economics and discovered a lot of freshmen, fellow freshmen that were in the hotel administration program and I just thought, “Wow, that is a really, really fascinating career path to be able to follow,” and what better place. Again, really fortuitous.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s interesting. When you’re a freshman in that program, what types of classes are you taking?

Carolann O.:                         I wasn’t able to transfer until my sophomore year and you start out with a pretty broad range of curriculum. It had everything from early on. We had a food science course. We had intro to food preparation. We had intro to marketing classes. We had psychology classes. Intro to accounting and finance. We covered things I think in my first year even you had an intro to hotel design and engineering. You had real estate courses. You had almost three years of on and off engineering and design. You had a lot of management courses that’s why the psychology and how to manage people and how to build teams there was an incredible amount around the food piece as well but most of it was really and a lot around the marketing HR. Again, how to manage people. Real estate, quite a bit in real estate and finance and because it was so multi disciplinary, you really had a broad base to come out of there recognizing you could specialize or you could go into the broader field itself. We were required to do a number of humanities courses and then throughout the time, summers were spent really trying to make sure that you are finding jobs inside the industry.

Lisa Belisle:                          Where did you grow up?

Carolann O.:                         I grew up in New Jersey.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you’re growing up, did you think, “Oh, I think I’d like to go into this field,” or did you think, “I’m going to be a pilot like my dad”?

Carolann O.:                         No, I pretty much figured I would try and fly like my dad. I wanted to travel. I knew I wanted to somehow be engaged in travel tourism, something like that. The international relation sort of economics piece I felt coming out of high school was a way to open up the opportunity to travel. That has always been my first love and I really did not anticipate, I didn’t consider myself a people person necessarily. The whole concept of hotel administration hospitality and all of that seemed a little bit outside of who I was as an individual. Again, it was one of those pathways that in so many respects just hit so many passion points for me. It was just one of those places and times where the fact that I ended up at Cornell and that was the home of the school of hotel administration was just a remarkable opportunity.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s such an interesting contrast to say I’m not a people person and then do the work that you do. All the things that you just described they require so much time with people.

Carolann O.:                         They do.

Lisa Belisle:                          Have you developed into a people person or you’ve just decided, “You know what? I probably always was a people person,” and just not necessarily like super extrovert.

Carolann O.:                         I think that describes it really quite well. I have grown in so many different ways over the course of time. Primarily because of the different experiences professionally that I’ve had through my lifetime and really it’s interesting even when I graduated from Cornell I still wasn’t necessarily a people person. My love at the point of graduation was really back at the house on the food and beverage side of things. I followed that a little bit but not until much later when I had my own restaurant but it’s still was something I gravitated more to sort of behind the scenes than I did out front. The juxtaposition really came when I ended up at the Office of Tourism and that primarily started as behind the scenes in essence hiring, I was hired as deputy director really to support all the activities of the office and the director herself.

When the director position was offered to me, obviously it was something I was not going to turn down but it really stepped up my ability to interact with people on a regular basis, be out in front of people and really change that dynamic. I think basically I’ve been good with networking over my years of where I’ve been and what I’ve done and a lot of what I had done I pushed myself to be in that landscape so that I’d see opportunity and have new projects ahead and just one thing lead to another. I’ve certainly had a chance to grow at each position that I’ve held and that’s been so rewarding from a lifestyle perspective.

Lisa Belisle:                          How did you go from being, I don’t know where you lived in New Jersey, I know there’s some wilderness in New Jersey but not a ton but to somebody who really loves Jackman and Millinocket and western Maine and really not as populated areas where you came from.

Carolann O.:                         That’s certainly true and it’s interesting. My family, I really have had the best of so many worlds because my grandparents own a business in New York City so we spent a lot of time as children, the special events, birthdays, everything else going to theater, doing a lot of fun museum hopping all the way around to the cultural experience of New York City and what it has to offer. We did live towards the western, north western side of New Jersey so out towards the Delaware Water Gap and spent a lot of time in the outdoors as children. My grandparents had a weekend as it turned out to be a retirement place that was 60 plus acres of tree farm. I remember growing up with Audubon and nature conservancy magazines across the coffee tables. It was really a love of the outdoors.

They originally went with friends from New York to a place in Jackman in the 50s called Attean Lake Lodge. My mother then took us as children and that was the first place really that I ended up working because I love the whole concept of being on an island in a lake. Very remote. Quite pampered I would say from the style of service and guest experience but really just being able to escape and I think that goes that’s a little bit of that counter yes I’m a people person but I also love the solitude and wonderful openness of the wilderness or the Maine woods. It’s not even necessarily wilderness but just being out in the natural landscape.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s actually what Maine Huts and Trails offers, isn’t it? That you have the wilderness.

Carolann O.:                         Right.

Lisa Belisle:                          Then you also offer a place where people can be, can stay and there’s usually other people there. It is that contrast, that juxtaposition.

Carolann O.:                         It is and I think that’s what makes Maine Huts and Trails fairly special in what that guest experience becomes and it’s different for different people but it really is the opportunity to be in the outdoors. Push yourself a little bit if you’d like to depending upon your skill level but recognizing that you’ve got a bit of support in the sense that you’re on marked trails, you’re getting a back country experience without necessarily having to worry too much about where you’re headed and what you’re doing because at the end of the day you’re headed for one of the huts. Huts we’ve often internally it’s a bit of a misnomer, more of a wilderness lodge. When you get to the lodge you can either find your own personal space or there’s just an incredible sense of camaraderie when you’re inside where other people are joining you.

It’s a family style meal service. You’re getting to know the hut staff that live there. There’s a lot of personal interaction. Often we hear stories of families that have met at the huts and continue then to either return as a trip to the special place that they met and or even spend time together in their regular lives outside of Maine Huts and Trails. It is very much a time to really be with yourself, disconnect, yet at the same time spend time with new friends, family, and loved ones.

Lisa Belisle:                          There’s been a lot of growth over the last several years with Maine Huts and Trails from what I understand.

Carolann O.:                         There has. It’s interesting, this year in, if I’m not mistaken about two weeks will be the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first hut which was the Poplar Stream Hut. The first three were built fairly quickly one right after the other so Poplar Stream then Flagstaff Hut not long thereafter. Then the Grand Falls Hut which is out on the Dead River. Then the last hut that was built was open about four years ago, so Stratton Brook. Really it was a pretty fast track in getting those four up and the trail connectivity all laid out. It’s really been about building the visitation and also building on the mission and the long range goals around the environmental stewardship and bringing young people into the outdoors and getting them to understand conservation and how important all that is to the landscape. Right now we’re 10 years in. What’s next? That was really one of the exciting parts about the attractiveness of the opportunity really is being able to play a role in where it goes from here.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s a very different role than the beginning of an organization. In the beginning it’s kind of entrepreneurial, it’s hit the ground running, it’s let’s see what we can … I guess it’s a younger organization.

Carolann O.:                         Right.

Lisa Belisle:                          Ten years in it’s a more mature organization so it’s almost as if it’s two different things that you’re dealing with.

Carolann O.:                         That’s really interesting. It is different in the sense of yeah everything is go, go, go, modeling it out, figuring out what’s going to work. Particularly as I’m learning because the non-profit world is new to me so that hence one of the challenges, that’s something I have not done in my past, working with funders, figuring out how this is all going to play out. I think of Dave Herring and I had met many of the founder and some of the founding board members and Dave Herring when he was the first executive director. I start at the Office of Tourism about the same time they opened Poplar hut but 10 years, interesting I’ve learned life cycles of non-profits so 10 years can almost be viewed as yes we have some maturity. We’ve got brand recognition, people, there is continuation of those that have been so supportive of us through that whole time and then there’s the next generation.

Not next generation necessarily in people but next iteration of the model and how do we … Is the original model, there’s conversations we have at different levels, is the original model the linear huts and trail system 10 years later? Is that still a model? Looking at connectivity, communities, what else is across the landscape, what’s changed in the 10 years from the time that we opened our doors at Poplar and even the concept goes back so much further than that. Larry Warren’s initial vision, building the support to even bring it to reality. Yes, more entrepreneurial probably in its beginnings at the inception but still now at a point of really having an opportunity to move it into the next generation.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of the challenges?

Carolann O.:                         Some of the challenges personally for me is just understanding how the non-profit world works versus I mean I’ve done four profit, I’ve done public service and the non-profit piece I really I think as I learn how it all plays together is it’s sometimes it’s just different terminology than the four profit world. You have so many of the donors and funders and supporters, I suppose you could look at it in some respects as investors but at certainly very different expectation at the end. It’s meeting a whole new network of people. Really the people that I had some interaction with just at the Office of Tourism recognizing that we do have non-profits inside the state of Maine that are also providing guest experiences.

There were some crossover but really not as much knowledge as I thought I might have moving into it. I had the guest experience piece and the travel and tourism piece and the marketing pieces in place but really learning how do you … The process of having members, the process of working regularly with all the different people who have made commitments and are personally really invested in the organization and the foundations that support us. It’s a really broad network of people that help make a non-profit run and so that’s been a wonderful learning curve for me.

Lisa Belisle:                          I remember that Dave Herring was probably one of our early guest.

Carolann O.:                         Great.

Lisa Belisle:                          Long time ago and now I believe he’s at Wolfe Neck.

Carolann O.:                         Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          He’s doing good work over there.

Carolann O.:                         Amazing.

Lisa Belisle:                          He was young and enthusiastic and you could just see him like out on the trails. I think he had a small child at that time.

Carolann O.:                         He did, yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          He just embodied this wilderness, this vision of wilderness. You have your own version of that. In addition to being the executive director, you’re also a very outdoorsy person like this is a place that you love to be.

Carolann O.:                         I think that was one of the other things that attracted me to the position is at the Office of Tourism it’s funny there have been different times the Office of Tourism was an opportunity to learn the broad landscape. I mean, I got to go pretty much almost every place in Maine. I got to meet an incredible breath of individuals that are providing guest experiences across the landscape. On top of that, it actually enabled me to learn more at the national level. It provided me with the opportunity. We become part of the National Council of State Tourism Directors so you’re learning from colleagues across all 50 states. We’re part of the U.S. Travel Association so learning at the national scale what’s driving travel and tourism, what is important from a policy perspective along with what’s really important from a market destination, marketing perspective, what’s trending.

I’ve always loved to be in the outdoors and a lot of that started early as we mentioned but it really came into play the Attean Lake Lodge piece certainly just wondering and exploring on my own but working for Matt Polstein at New England Outdoor Center in many ways has been such a mentor. Recognizing that there’s business that can be done as part of a passion related to the outdoors and outdoor recreation and providing a truly unique guest experience in a place where people may not have considered visiting at other times. I mean, the fascination about the Maine woods for me is the balance of the working forest landscape, the traditions when you think of Fly Rod Crosby, the Registered Maine Guide, those traditional sports that came from afar really into the north Maine woods guided through all kind of different experiences. To be able to carry on that tradition yet do it as the trends evolve and guest experiences and expectations evolve and continue to play that out is really, really a fascinating component.

Lisa Belisle:                          From what I understand, you can take advantage of Maine Huts and Trails really anytime of the year. Even in the deepest, coldest, darkest part of winter you actually encourage people to go out there and participate.

Carolann O.:                         We do. It’s about embracing winter, that’s a big piece and honestly Maine Huts and Trails if I’m not mistaken really started more as a back country winter experience. The idea was to develop this trail network that provided for a cross-country ski, I think initially more or less a cross-country ski experience from hut to hut based on many of the European models as you see them across the landscape. It’s interesting how it evolved in recognizing the growth in outdoor recreation overall. Really, people’s move to healthier lifestyles and using the outdoors as a way to really live better I think in many respects and the recognition also was to be a sustainable organization or work towards that at some point in time doing just three months a year where you’ve got some pretty remarkable structures out there and people who really want to work and be part of that wasn’t going to be necessarily as viable as if you became year-round.

They started as cross-country skiing but as I back up and think about the mission, the original mission and it still holds true today is really to be a year-round outdoor recreation resource of national significance. It was intended to be year-round but it started with the winter piece first. Over the years considerable investment has been placed into the sustainability of the trails themselves. Winter, it’s great, you’re on snow so you’re not impacting the landscape as much as when you start hiking and biking and doing other things through the trail network. The investment has been really about build out but also surface areas and drainage and making sure that that trail system is really very solid for the long-term.

Lisa Belisle:                          It seems as though you would need to continue to have conversations with multiple different players in this. I mean, we have in the winter we have snowmobilers, we have cross-country skiers, the fat tire bikers are out pretty much all year-round. I mean, everybody’s got slightly different take on what it means to have a nice trail.

Carolann O.:                         I think that’s probably true. I mean, for us, we’re focused on the people-powered recreation. We have certainly our trails managers, Savannah Steele and the trails manager ahead of her, Jason Cooke spent time really working with all the user groups even where we intersect with the snowmobile trails or the ATV trails. Just understanding that we’re all playing across the same area but the different user groups, it’s interesting. I think it’s more about the passion and being in the outdoors and following the pursuit that you love best but recognizing that we’re all in it together and we just want to be out there having fun. We see multiple users across the system particular as you mention in non-winter and even now in winter the fat tire piece has just grown dramatically.

A lot of investment has been made not just by us but also by the town of Carrabassett Valley, the Carrabassett region doing the mountain biking association club, Sugarloaf, we’re all in a group together called Carrabassett Valley Trails which is pooling resources to expand the mountain biking system. Looking again at that summer primarily because the area has been known back to winter the area has been known as a winter destination. How do you become more year-round as a region as well. It’s fun to see when you’re out there you’ll have a family that’s snowshoeing, you’ve got some cross-country skiers coming by. We lay track in the winter. The other day we had 20 fat bikers coming through the system from Stratton Brook to Poplar so it actually when you get to the hut you’ve got all these different people interacting that have come to the hut by different modes of people-powered activity but they just love being in the outdoors.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been doing this for a little more than a year now.

Carolann O.:                         Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          Hopefully, you’ll be doing it for many years to come but what are you looking forward to the most in this year?

Carolann O.:                         In this year, that’s a good question. It’s funny, the first year has been so much of a learning absorption period. I think if anything for me personally I’m looking forward to actually moving into the what’s next phase rather than just learning and I’ll always be learning so I should take that back. For me, I’d like a personal thing at training that I told the hut staff that we do a three to four day training with new hut staff each season. One of the things was I definitely wanted to spend more time with them out on the trails and in the huts so again, less time out there figuring out who all the players are and how I need to interact with a lot of new different people but also being able to actually participate in the activities, they are so much a part of who we are.

The other piece for me is getting to know those that have been such strong supporters of the organization throughout its 10 years plus at this point. I still have a lot of introductions and people to meet and stories to hear and stories to tell. The next year will really be more about that than anything. I was able to do some of that in the first year. It was so much shepherding from our board and other people that are very, very active in the organization but then there’s so many people still that I haven’t met that have been very engaged over 10 plus years that are either regular guest or regular members or fairly sizable supporters. That’s going to be really important to me and really starting to lay out what the next steps are.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Carolann Ouellette who joined Maine Huts and Trails as Executive Director in January of 2017 and previously served at the Director of Maine Office of Tourism. Thank you very much for coming in and having this conversation today.

Carolann O.:                         Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Lisa.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 338. Our guests have included Lori Parham and Carolann Ouellette. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our Editorial Producer is Kate Gardner. Our Assistant Producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our Community Development Manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our Executive Producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at Lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #337: Hannah Cooke and Tracy Guerrette

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr.Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 337, airing for the first time on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. Today we speak with Athlete and Portland resident, Hannah Cooke, founder of the Bowdoin Athletes of Coalition of Bowdoin College, and elite runner, Tracy Guerrette winner of last year’s Maine Marathon, who hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy, and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Bowdoin College student, Hannah Cooke, is the founder of the Bowdoin Athletes of Color Coalition, which brings together student athletes of color to discuss their experiences of playing sports. Thanks for coming in today.

Hannah Cooke:                   Thank you for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          At least for today, this is not a long travel for you because you were born and raised in the city.

Hannah Cooke:                   No. It should’ve probably been shorter if I could find parking.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yes. Yeah. Well, the whole snow thing is kind of throwing us off a little bit.

Hannah Cooke:                   Absolutely.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. But you lived in Maine a long time, so you know it’s like snow on the city streets. Right?

Hannah Cooke:                   Oh, absolutely. But I did live mostly outside of the city growing up, so snow in the streets was not as much of a problem because we had driveways. But yeah, snow is definitely a problem.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me about that. Tell me about growing up here in Maine.

Hannah Cooke:                   Well, so to be honest, now going to Bowdoin, I’ve thought way more about my experience growing up in Maine. I grew up kind of like North Deering area, so kind of like suburbia, very predominantly white. And for most of my education career, childhood, I was one of the few people … One of the only people of color in my class. Until middle school, I think I was the only one. And growing up, I don’t think that had at first really made a huge … I wasn’t thinking about it, really. I think the first time that I actually thought about being different was when I was in the third grade. We were playing man hunt or something and I remember there was a comment made about me being a person of color and not wanting me on a specific team. And I was pretty shocked because I had never even thought about how my race would be significant in any kind of way. I didn’t even really think about being different.

And I think that the response from a lot of the kids, for not knowing much about race, was, “What? That sounds crazy.” But no one really knew how to articulate anything. And that experience for me was the first time I started to think about my race growing up because I did live in such a white neighborhood, and my family is biracial, so my mom is also from rural Maine and my dad’s from Jamaica, so it’s a very interesting cultural mix within my house. But then I didn’t realize how different that was comparatively.

But I think growing up for me, actually sports became a place for me to kind of move beyond what I think now was a feeling of a little bit being different in a lot of ways. And it was a place where there was no talk that could really … It’s hard to explain. I still try to articulate it. A lot of my actual academic career has been me soul searching to understand my childhood and how I’ve gotten to the place where I am. But I think that I had a tough time fitting in with my neighborhood, and not just because of my race. But I do think just like culturally, coming from the family I did, was extremely open minded. And not to say that other people were not open minded, but I don’t think there was a recognition of what it meant to be a person of … Like a woman of color too, like a girl who was black in a white space, which in our gender has such a role in it too, and how that influences how you’re perceived.

And again, not articulating this at that age growing up. But I think that sports was a place for me to kind of feel like nothing else beyond my feeling of almost otherness at times really mattered. There’s nothing someone could say that could take away from me beating them, so I became extremely, extremely competitive. And I was always competitive, but I think that sports was a very special space for me growing up to kind of move beyond all those other things and find a kind of way to empower myself by working hard and then being successful, and then having that it became a big part of my identity. But that also did change a lot when I went to school. But yeah, I think growing up in Maine, though, was a great experience, very safe and certainly a lot of communities, different communities that I felt very a part of, and a lot of them were connected to sports I think.

Another thing I think about, I played basketball and soccer growing up, and soccer is a completely different demographic of people compared to basketball. And I think that I ended up choosing basketball, actually, and I was pretty successful at both of them, and very competitive with both. But when I got older, I started to feel a little bit more like basketball was the sport that I loved more, but now when I look back, I feel like basketball was actually a space where I just felt more connected with the people who I was playing with. And through my independent research project, which was on race and gender in American sports specifically, and that really focused on culture of sports and how that culture is a reflection of class attitudes and where people are coming from with their experiences outside to it. They bring in those values and that creates a kind of culture and expectations on a different team. And I felt, I think, more connected because there were so many people of color playing basketball, especially in Portland where there actually is. Those communities do exist more than outside of Portland.

And so that, in my mind I chose basketball because that’s what I wanted to play. But I think so much more of it had to do with the people that I was surrounded by and how I felt just a little bit more like I could connect with people on a different way that I didn’t always have growing up a lot younger in my community. But I definitely lived a privileged life and I’m very grateful for all that I had growing up. But when you’re forced to think about who you become and how your life experiences did shape you, I think that I certainly was shaped by being one of the few people and few girls of colors especially, in my class growing up.

Lisa Belisle:                          What was your intention when you founded the Bowdoin Athletes of Color Coalition? What were you trying to do?

Hannah Cooke:                   I’m not exactly positive I knew what I was trying to do. It was kind of a variety of things that kind of came together at the right time. One of my best friends was a leader on our student athletic committee and she’d heard about this program that Tufts was doing, which is an athletes of color group as well. And it was at the same time I was doing my research project and really engaging with these issues at a much deeper level. And then I started, because of my research project, thinking about again how sports had influenced my own life growing up and what kind of purpose it had served for me, and then how that purpose … It changes the whole demographic of who you are teammates with, and who that community is changes when you get to college, especially at an elite institution such as Bowdoin, where’s there’s probably a smaller proportion of even people of color on the athletic teams, which is ironic considering most people … Across the nation, a lot of people of color do play sports, even in Maine. But also, Bowdoin is 90% from out of state.

So I was curious as to how that change in demographic changed people’s experiences, how it changed the culture of the sport, because my research prior had said to me that basically all of those different intersecting identities had contributed to creating a particular culture, and that had attracted me to it. But then what happens when that culture changes for other people too? Like for myself, I was like, my freshman year I was the only person of color on my basketball team, which was one of the first times that had ever happened to me, even being someone from Maine. So I thought, “Well, how does that change how the culture had been created on my college team?” And was that significant in any way? And then I thought. Well, my change, being from someone who’s very familiar with predominantly white places and communities, I thought that if there was any … Like, I had thought about it being challenging in different ways for me, then for someone who is going to an even more different in significant ways, the demographics team for example.

I had a friend who was from Georgia and played soccer. And he was on a team that was almost all black and now he’s on a team that’s almost all white. So how does that change his experience or their experience because it’s such an intimate space? And you work your whole life, a lot of people do in college, to be good at that one place. And you have a particular kind of community that you’re used to supporting you or being around and having those relationships. And a team, you don’t choose your relationships. And a lot of times we get so lucky to meet the people that we do. But it’s also, you don’t choose those people who are on your team. They’re chosen for you. So it changes the dynamics of the relationships, and I wanted to see if that had any impact on how people adapted to not only a new school, which has an entirely different culture in itself, but then also a team where you spend so much time and a lot of intimate relationships are formed. Like, how did that influence how those relationships were formed? And how people dealt with challenges.

I know there are a lot of affinity groups at Bowdoin and I had been to some of the meetings and realized that it was the way that sometimes conflict was dealt with, whatever kind of where that falls on the spectrum of microaggression to macroaggressions. But a lot of times it’s easier for other people to just avoid the situation or to just not be friends with people who kind of rub them the wrong way. And that is just not the same with being on a team. And that’s a beautiful opportunity to help people learn and to coexist with people who you’re not used to being around, but it also requires a different way to deal with conflict. And sometimes that can be challenging and isolating if you’re on a team that is so different than what you’re used to being on.

And the same thing with coaches, having coaches that come from different places, different people to look up to, or who understand or perceive you and how you act just differently. And I never really think that it’s a malicious thing. I think that at Bowdoin, across the board there is so much willingness and very little malicious intent that ever happens when adversity arises. But at the same time, that is not an excuse to not learn from things that do make other people feel other and different and isolated at times. So I knew that if I, again, was having some kind of experience that was challenging to me, especially coupled with trying to learn so much about my history and America’s history, a part of America’s history, which I feel like is not taught in schools until you seek it out, like college. I did not go into college thinking I was going to be in Africana studies as one of my majors.

And as I took a couple, I took one class my advisor begged me to because I said I might be interested in it. And from then, I’ve just been … It’s had such an impact on my life because I feel like there’s so much more that I know about not only myself, but about other people and how they interpret and perceive other people and other situations and different communities that they’re not necessarily from. So with that, just a perfect storm. And I decided that I was going to talk to the athletic director about starting some kind of group to get people to perhaps explore and self reflect on their own experiences. And that’s initially how it began, and then I got a lot of great feedback from people who started to join the group. And then I knew it was important because so many people had expressed that this was a space that they didn’t know that they needed, as I don’t think I did initially, but then was very valuable to have to kind of throw out feelings that you’ve had or questions about certain experiences that you’re not necessarily sure how to articulate in that moment, or even long term.

And sometimes you look back and you’re just like, “Okay. I actually think that this has had an impact on me. I would like to change X, Y, and Z.” And then to have a group of people who can share those experiences or relate to them is really meaningful and not feeling kind of that whole sense of otherness. And from there, working with the athletic director and creating programs and initiatives to work on making those feelings happen less and to get teams and coaches and individuals just more self aware of how they create culture on their team and how they create those relationships and how to recognize that maybe you are an athlete on the court, on the fields, on the rink, wherever it may be. But you’re still, your identity as a person of color doesn’t change. Same with gender, that has to do with it. It doesn’t change when you’re playing. And then when you’re outside of the sport, you don’t always lose the things that you’re dealing with when you come on to the court, or again, whatever space it might be.

And I think my freshman year that became really significant, something very significant that I had thought about. And there was a lot of police brutality instances that happened with young people. And I had actually, I had gotten pulled over in Brunswick, and I got out of the car because apparently … There was this whole fiasco. I apparently had missed … I got a speeding ticket. Not really proud about that, but it wasn’t that bad. But I had gone away. I went to boarding school, and so we had missed some payment. It was like a five, like some really small fee for the court fee that we just didn’t. I didn’t see the mail because I was away. And my mom owns her own business, so she didn’t see the piece of mail if it came. We’re not really sure. We weren’t notified about it afterwards, and so my license had been suspended, and I had no idea. And I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I never break rules. So I’m like, “I’m really so sorry. I had no idea.”

But then the police officer had asked to take pictures of me because he didn’t want me to sue him for beating him … For saying that I had been beaten by him. And I’m biracial, so I’m actually relatively light, which is a whole nother identity that you can get into at a different time. But I was very just taken aback by, oh my gosh, this person sees me as someone who’s capable of accusing him of doing harm to me just because I was a person of color. And at that time, people of color all across cities were having trouble with cops. And I have no natural animosity towards cops. But I think that experience, and then going back to my teammates, I did not know how to talk about that with them because I didn’t think that anyone would know where I was coming from.

And I think that I had mentioned it to one or two team mates, and kind of the response was something like, wow, I can’t believe that happened. But that was kind of it. And so that was tough. And that was my freshman year. I didn’t even do this until my junior year. But that was an experience that resonated with me as being something like my teammates were my closest friends and that’s a very intimate space. And those would be the people that I would want to maybe talk to about something like that. And I didn’t know how to. And so I thought that was an extreme example, but there’s got to be other people who are having different experiences in and outside of their team that impact how they are, how present they are, and how they talk about or deal with different challenges on that team as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          One of the things that you mentioned was the idea of not being able to avoid conflict. And you used the word intimate space when it comes to playing sports, and I think that’s absolutely the case, that you’re on a court. Say if you’re in basketball and you’re in a locker room. And whether it’s your teammate or the member of the opposite team, you can’t avoid facing this person. But this is the way that we have dealt with conflict, I think fairly consistently for quite a while in this country, is to just pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Hannah Cooke:                   Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          And maybe marginalize people that we don’t agree with. How do conversations about that happen in your group? How do you talk about actually having to face this conflict and not run away?

Hannah Cooke:                   Yeah. My opinion is also going to be representative of everyone else’s. But we talk about this a lot. A lot of our meetings are kind of like dialogue like in a sense that I tend to be a facilitator because I do facilitation outside of that. That’s one of my jobs on campus. But I tend to run them similarly to that and getting people to be reflective of how they deal with those instances of adversity or awkwardness and we talk through it. And I think that everyone has different ways that they deal with things based off their team and what level in the relationship they are with people who this is happening with. I think power dynamics go into it too with people like coaches.

Being from a family that is very diverse, naturally just in itself, I personally, I’m of the opinion that having one on one conversations is really beneficial because I find that very often it is not a malicious intended comment or instance that happens. And I think that bringing people, calling people in instead of calling people out has been a really effective way. And it’s hard for some people to do that because it is hard because once you acknowledge that someone made you uncomfortable, there’s no going back, and that for some people is really … It’s easier to just not deal with that person or to say, “You know what, this person is too politically correct for me to be around.”

But for me, I think that if those relationships are really worth it for me and for those people, then the work will be put in and they will be okay with that. It doesn’t always work out perfectly and I think that is one thing that I try to encourage people to look beyond in the group. It’s like, whatever you say and how you feel is not always going to come out clean and smooth and really understandable for that person. But by mentioning it and by engaging people in those conversations, especially in an intimate setting that’s not even within the whole group, it does create a space for conversation to happen and for you to be seen and validated. And I think that sometimes there is so much fear that you’re going to say something that makes someone else feel uncomfortable or hurt.

But the fact of the matter is, is that there was a reason that you needed to say that in the first place, and that’s because you also felt some type of way, hurt in some way. And so it’s like, what’s more or less important? Would you rather deal with being hurt and feeling ostracized, or would you rather challenge someone in your life who you trust or love to do better? And I think by also challenging someone else to do better, it’s more a sign that you believe that they can do it. And that’s whenever I kind of engage with friends that I’m like, “Okay, I just want to kind of address this particular thing,” which again, is very difficult to do. But I always start with the reason I’m having this conversation, the reason I’m even saying anything is because I know this wasn’t your intent and I know that as my friend, you wouldn’t want me to feel this way. And so this is why I’m saying it, and I believe that you can do better. And it’s not supposed to undermine your character or really label you as a racist or sexist person. It’s just, I need to tell you, this is how it made me feel, and I know that wasn’t your intention.

And how people respond to that, again, changes. But I really do believe that if people really do value your relationship that they’re going to listen. And I think listening is the hardest part, and really hearing what someone has to say. But by not having those conversations, I always feel like it just doesn’t help anyone because that other person, who said X, Y, and Z, can continue to do, say those things, or those incidents can keep happening, and then that other person does feel isolated or ostracized. And I think that people are much more willing than we might always give credit for to engage with these kinds of hard topics because people on both sides are scared. And I think acknowledging that fear from both sides is also really valuable.

Yeah. I don’t really know how to express this. This is how this made me feel. It’s not about you. It’s just about, this is why this made me feel this way. It’s kind of, I don’t want this to change our relationship. I just want us to be able to build a stronger relationship. And if you don’t address those things, it’s impossible to build strong relationships with individuals anywhere in or outside of the team if you’re not willing to be honest about how you feel.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I appreciate your taking time out of your very busy life. I know that you’re in your final year, and I’m sure that what you end up doing after you leave Bowdoin will continue to lead you down interesting paths. I also appreciate the fact that you have founded the Bowdoin Athletes of Color Coalition at Bowdoin College, my alma mater. I think what you’re doing is important so I appreciate it. I’ve been speaking with Bowdoin College student, Hannah Cooke. Thanks for coming in.

Hannah Cooke:                   Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tracy Guerrette is an elite runner, who won the Maine Marathon last October, and a former University of Maine basketball player. She is also the director of Faith Formation at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Bangor. Thanks for coming in.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Thank you for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          We first learned about your success as a runner at the Maine Marathon. Actually, I was there and saw you up in the podium wearing your … Was it a crown of laurel or something?

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Olympian looking like that.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. That was the best part of it all.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. It was really great. You were very emotional about the whole thing.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I was, yeah. The Maine Marathon was a goal race for me. Just being from the State of Maine, I feel like it’s the marathon in the state. And I’m such a Mainer and I love our state. And so I just wanted to go down there and do really well. And so it had been my goal race this fall. And in my heart I knew I could do really well, and I trained very hard. Actually, I live in Bangor and I would drive down on the weekends and do my workouts on the course at the different points of the course, so I knew it very well.

And so, kind of secretly, I was working really, really hard at it. So yeah, you have that goal and you have the confidence to do it, and I knew I could do it. And so just to be able to run that fast. To win it, obviously was a gift and a blessing. But then to qualify, or to run the qualifying time and to run so fast, it was kind of unexpected. So yeah, I was very emotional and happy with it.

Lisa Belisle:                          When you actually finished, did you know that you had gotten a qualifying time for the Olympics?

Tracy Guerrette:                  I did. That was a goal of mine and I didn’t think I was going to run that fast that soon. And so to qualify for the Olympic trials, you have to run a sub 2:45:00 marathon. And so that was my goal, and I thought it was going to take me a couple years. And again, in my mind I had that confidence that I could do it. But to do it on that course, and it’s a very challenging course, so a lot of my friends in the running world were kind of deterring me from doing the Maine Marathon because it’s such a challenging course. And so, yeah, again I was pleased to run it that hard and to be that consistent with my mileage, and to run it that well was wonderful.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. I’ve run that course. I’ve run the marathon now a few times, and it is very challenging, especially on the way back and there’s some pretty big hills on Route 88.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah, surprisingly, I thought the way out was going to be hard. On and out and back, you kind of just wait for the half. You’re waiting to get to 13 and you know you can turn around and come back. Yeah, I had practiced it a bunch of times, but there’s a hill at 17, I think. Is it Tuttle Hill?

Lisa Belisle:                          Yes.

Tracy Guerrette:                  So that kind of hurts. But I knew because I’ve trained so much on it. I knew that afterward you have some sort of flat and then there is a downhill, so there’s a nice recovery after. So I thought, “Once I get to 20, it’s going to be all down hills, supposedly coming into Portland.” But I’m telling you, that last mile and a half is hard because you get onto Baxter Boulevard and you can see the finish, but you still have a mile and a half. And by that point, you’re extremely exhausted and so I think somebody videotaped me coming in, a friend of mine. And I was trying to work as hard as I could, but I was just really tired by that point. And I kept looking at him as if to say, “Stop videotaping me.” But it’s a nice footage to have coming in, but yeah, it’s challenging.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. I think that is the worst part of that last part, is that you’re thinking, “Oh, I’m almost done.” But you’re really not.

Tracy Guerrette:                  You’re really not.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s much further around.

Tracy Guerrette:                  It is much further around. You can see the finish. And your watch doesn’t lie, so I have my Garmin on and I know that I have about a couple miles left, so you’re just trying to work as hard as you can to finish.

Lisa Belisle:                          As perspective for people who are listening, who may not be runners, what per mile are you needing to run to do sub 2:45:00?

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. And so talking with my coach, Rob Gomez, we kind of had a plan that I would go out and do the first 13 miles at a 6:20 pace, and then the last 13 at 6:15. And so to go sub 2:45:00, it’s around a 6:17, but you don’t want to mess around. And so again, I go out too hard, so I went out at 6:12s. And on the back side it was about like a 6:19. But you need … So the focus was like 6:15, so six minute, 15 second pace per mile.

Lisa Belisle:                          Which is pretty fast.

Tracy Guerrette:                  It is pretty fast. It is. It’s funny. It’s daunting to think about as I sit here with you, but it’s amazing what your body can do when you train for it.

Lisa Belisle:                          You ran a lot of miles to get ready for the Maine Marathon, and then the marathon in California that you did not too long after.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I did, yeah. For some people, they can’t run a lot of mileage. It just really negatively affects their body. And so for everyone, you kind of have to find that sweet spot, which will benefit you, but not kind of overtrain you and hurt you. But for me, I could just run a lot of miles. And I think my body’s able to take it. And so yeah, I peaked out at 120 miles. So I would run. Through the summer I was running 80 to 90, which was not running a lot. I kind of took a step back and focused on my speed because the Beach to Beacon was a goal race of mine. And then to ramp up through the fall, it was about 100, 120 a week.

Lisa Belisle:                          That last part is very important. 120 per week.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Per week, 120. It takes a lot of time.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’re probably not running every single day.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I am. I don’t take a day off. A day off for me would be maybe an easy 10 in the morning.

Lisa Belisle:                          I want to just give that a moment to sink in for people who are listening. 120 miles a week, so even divided by seven, and say that 10 is your small mileage. Most days, you’re running what?

Tracy Guerrette:                  At least, at least 15 to 18 maybe. And so then you have that long weekend run. Like I ran 22 this past Saturday. I ran 16 on Sunday. Ran 15 yesterday. I’m hoping to get close to 20 today. And I don’t do that all at once. I double a lot. And I’m older, so it’s interesting at my age. So I’ll try to run more in the morning. But for me to get back out there and run a four or five easy couple miles in the afternoon really flushes out my legs, surprisingly. And I feel more recovered for the next morning. And so you think you’re doing a lot and you’re out there running a lot, but you’re so used to it that your body kind of craves that just to get it going again, if you could kind of wrap your mind around that, but yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Before you did this, you were a basketball player at The University of Maine.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I was.

Lisa Belisle:                          You had a whole different life as a different type of athlete.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I was. Yeah. I’ve played team sports all my life. I grew up in a small town in Northern Maine, St. Agatha, and we didn’t have cross country, or track, or anything. And so I just played every sport that was available to us. And basketball was the one that I kind of gravitated towards. It’s the one that I spent the most time doing through the summer and in the off season. So I’ve been playing since I was four. Playing, again, I’m a Mainer. I love the state, so playing at The University of Maine was my goal and my dream. And I was being recruited throughout New England, and division one schools, two and three. But in my heart, I wanted to play for Maine, and so yeah. Totally different mindset. Being a team sport athlete is just very different than being a runner. I find being a runner on a cross country team, it’s a team aspect, but it’s more individual. It’s been really neat to experience both team athletics and more now in my older age, becoming a runner.

Lisa Belisle:                          St. Agatha is not a large town.

Tracy Guerrette:                  It’s not.

Lisa Belisle:                          I mean, I’ve driven through it on the way to Fort Kent many, many times.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. Don’t blink.

Lisa Belisle:                          How big is the school system up there?

Tracy Guerrette:                  It’s very, very small. The school system, they’re divided into different classes, and so we’re the smallest class in the state. We’re D, and very small. My graduating class was 33, which was considered a big class back then. And it’s still open. The high school is seven through 12. But I loved it. They say when we talk about a good teacher to student ratio. We had small classes, phenomenal teachers, great education. And the town is wonderful. Everybody was my friend. We grew up together playing sports together. You’re in extracurricular activities together. We all go to church together. And so it was definitely a blessing being able to grow up in such a small-tight knit town. And I didn’t know any different.

I never thought I went without. The closest Wal Mart is an hour away. That’s not a big deal. So yeah, it was just a wonderful upbringing up there, and it’s beautiful as well. I love it. It’s probably one of my best places to visit in the state.

Lisa Belisle:                          It is beautiful. And it’s also interesting that you were able to come out of such a small graduating high school class and play for The University of Maine, which is a division one school.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. I keep in touch with the U of Maine coaches. I was recently an assistant coach at the University of Maine with that coaching staff. The big argument that I would have in a charitable way was, hey, even though a student athlete’s from a small town doesn’t mean they can’t play at this level. And so yeah, if there’s talent there, then they’re able to play. And I was very fortunate. I have older brothers, so I’d always play with them and they made me tough and competitive. I’d go to camps throughout the summer and I’d AAU teams. So I’d play on these AAU teams with the best players throughout the State of Maine and we’d travel throughout New England and beyond.

And so I was playing against that competitiveness, that competitive athlete, and so I knew I could play at that level. Back in the day, yeah, these teams were made up of the best athletes, like I said. So I was playing against kids from down here, from the middle of the state, and so I really feel like I was well prepared to play at The University of Maine.

Lisa Belisle:                          Your last name is French.

Tracy Guerrette:                  It is.

Lisa Belisle:                          And your family is very important to you.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. They are. I’m blessed. I talk about my parents, who are still … This sounds really morbid, but they’re still alive and doing well. They’re older, and they still live in St. Agatha. But they’re saints. They really are. They’re the most selfless, generous people that I know. And so yeah, being brought up from Northern Maine, it’s very French. It’s very Catholic, very tight-knit. And so I grew up in a French speaking household, and so my parents would speak French to us as children. And what happened, and I regret this, is we would respond in English. And I think my parents regret not kind of making us speak it more in the home, and I regret not practicing more. And so I could understand it perfectly, but my confidence isn’t there when I speak it.

And I’m sure, we go to Quebec a lot, and Quebec City, and my parents are in their element. And I try to kind of practice my French when I’m there, and it helps. The more you stay there, kind of get used to speaking it. But yeah, French speaking community. And to speak with my grandparents, I’d have to converse with them in French, and it’s still very French up there when you go home, the conversations. It’s funny. We just had Christmas and if you sit there in the living room and listen to people talk, they’ll go from French to English, to French to English. And so it’s still very much alive and well. And it’s really beautiful too. A lot of the traditions of the French speaking, and just the fact that we’re Quebecois, a lot of those traditions are still very present up there as well, so that’s nice to experience when I go home.

Lisa Belisle:                          Even as you’re talking-

Tracy Guerrette:                  Can you pick it out?

Lisa Belisle:                          I can actually pick it out as you talk about being up there. There’s this interesting inflection that happens. It’s very specific to Northern Maine, and I know this because I spent a lot of time with people who were French speaking from Northern Maine at one point in my life. And what I found was, people would … The inflection would leave their voices, but then if they talked about being in Northern Maine, it would come back again. It’s very subtle, but I think it’s also a very different kind of French than what many people are taught in school these days.

Tracy Guerrette:                  You know, unfortunately that’s what’s happened. So we were all speaking this … It’s almost like it’s a Quebecois Acadian French, so it’s not your Parisian French that you would hear in France. So we’d speak it in the home and amongst each other, but then in school we would be taught the Parisian French, which is very different. Again, I just regret. I wish they would have more kind of the tangible French speaking in the schools. So we would learn the proper French from France. And so I think that kind of led to the fact that a lot of us don’t speak it anymore. It was more of a confusion than a help.

Interesting fact, though, or just interesting story. A couple years ago I went to Italy with the U of Maine basketball team. We went and we played a couple games against some professional teams over there. And when we were in Tuscany, there was a group from Bordeaux, France, and I could converse with them perfectly, so I don’t know. And they say that the French from those small towns have been preserved. And that’s where my ancestry is from and so if they came to Northern Maine, or to Nova Scotia, Acadia, and then eventually to Northern Maine, yeah. I don’t know. I could understand their dialect and we conversed very well.

A couple days later we were in Rome and there was a group from Paris, and I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me. And so it’s interesting. Isn’t it? I don’t know why that is, just the different dialects of the French. And my parents are the same, so it’s funny. Like I mentioned, when we go to Quebec City, all those little towns on the way to Quebec City that you stop in, that’s totally French. And my parents are in their element. They get all excited. And like you were saying, they sound differently. It just kind of brings something out in them as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. I believe that St. Agatha was. I don’t know that I’m pronouncing it correctly.

Tracy Guerrette:                  It is. You are.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. Which, I learned French in high school. My dad spoke French. His family was from Biddeford and they spoke French amongst the grandparents and the aunts and uncles. I went up to Northern Maine and I did not have any idea what they were talking about. It was so different, but it was so great because I would listen to what people would say and the names and the way they pronounce people’s last names. And I would kind of translate back, like, hmm. This inflection is so different than what I’m used to, but so interesting.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Right. Yeah. And I think because people were Anglicizing their names, so they’ve changed the names a little bit. You think of the people in Biddeford or Lewiston, they kind of came down from Quebec. And so again, I think just the different areas like Quebec City, the Quebecois. And then you have some people in Northern Maine, so we’re considered Acadians. Right? And the Acadians and the Quebecois, they get kind of competitive with each other. I don’t know, it’s just that you have all these different dialects and language changing over time. I love it. Again, I really think people talk about two Maines. And okay, yeah, I know we’re far up there. But it’s beautiful. There’s something really special about Northern Maine and St. John Valley.

Lisa Belisle:                          I absolutely agree. And before I went up there, I didn’t even realize that the Quebecois and the Acadian, they’ve very different groups.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Right. Very different groups. And I think within my genealogy if I look at both sides of my family, I know the Guerrettes, it’s Quebecois. And I think there is some Quebecois as well. And so you have all these different kind of trees within your family, so I have both Acadian and Quebecois. And my parents are very into history, and so every time, again, we go to Quebec a lot, we’d stop and my dad loves to visit graveyards. But he just loves the churches because you have all the historical records and things. So we’d visit churches and he’d walk through graveyards, and he just loves that, just the history and the ancestry. And so that was a big part of growing up, a big, important part of growing up for me as well.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve chosen a path that is unique these days, I would say. You currently work as the director of Faith Formation at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Bangor.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I do.

Lisa Belisle:                          And you’re going even deeper into your faith.

Tracy Guerrette:                  I do, yeah. The Catholic faith was just a huge part of my upbringing, just being very French and very Catholic. I joke around. Some families decorate with Pottery Barn. My parents decorated with Catholic memorabilia, crucifixes, statues, and just the things that make the faith alive in the home. So yeah, it was a very important part of our upbringing. It was instilled into me. I had a desire to give my whole life to God since a young age. It had always been a part of my life and funny enough, even as an athlete, I really believe that God used just the game of basketball and that simple thing in my life as a tool for my conversion.

And so even playing at The University of Maine, basketball helped me to grow a lot in my faith. And so I was premed undergrad. I had the aspirations of becoming a doctor. And when I graduated, I just had a change of heart. And so I was kind of like, “Great. Now what?” I took organic chemistry twice, my MCATs a bunch of times, biochem, all these just really challenging classes to prepare myself. And I was applying to medical schools, but I wasn’t sure. And so I eventually got my teaching certification and went back into teaching.

My mother had been a teacher, and so I think because she had been a teacher, I just swore not to do that. You know, when you’re young and you want to do something different. But I just really discovered I had a gift for teaching. And so I started teaching, started coaching. But still wasn’t satisfied, there was just something else that was missing. And so in 2013, I had, just after much prayer and discernment, decided to enter a religious community. So discern my religious location is the terminology, the Catholic terminology, but wanted to be a nun to give my whole life to God. And I know people could have their faith and that relationship is really important, but I just wanted to give everything.

And so I entered a convent down in Nashville, Tennessee. The sisters were teachers and that really appealed to me, beautiful community. And in the first couple years of religious life, it’s very free. So there’s no other way to discern it, if you can imagine. It’s so radical. And so the only way really is to enter the life and to truly live it. And so they allow you to do that, and so yeah. Gave up everything. Paid off my car, gave it to my parents and they kept it. Eventually gave it back to me, which was a blessing. But just gave away everything, cashed out of my 401K, that was it, and took that radical step and entered. And God really made it obvious. Living life every day, and God really made it obvious to me that I’m not called to life in that community life, that I’m called to live my faith in the world, which I think could be more challenging.

When you have the strong belief, it’s not that it’s really easy, but if you’re surrounded in this community with all the people that are like minded, it can be easier. I feel like he’s given me that spirit and that … Even my competitive nature and my passion to live my faith in the world and to make a difference for him in the world. So I left after six months and went back into coaching because I was coaching at The University of Maine at the time. And Coach Richard Barron took me back. But I still … There’s something missing.

And so at the end of that year, resigned again, poor Coach Barron. Resigned again and took this position at the church, and so I’m the director of Faith Formation. And so we have six different churches under the umbrella of St. Paul the Apostle Parish. And so I oversee all the ministries that happen, from baptism prep to little kids’ Faith Formation Sunday School, and our high schools groups, to young adult ministry, our young families groups, adults. So I kind of oversee everything in our church.

We’re a very vibrant parish because Bangor … Bangor, Hampden, Brewer, it’s all together under one umbrella, but very vibrant, and so it’s very busy, but such a blessing. And so for now, I’m very content there. But no matter what I do, I want to do something in ministry and something to serve people and to give my life so that others may have life, and to make a difference in the world in a positive way. So it’s a blessing to be able to do that, St. Paul the Apostle.

Lisa Belisle:                          So you used the for now, so this still isn’t what … You’re still not exactly sure. That must be so interesting.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. I know. Are we ever though?

Lisa Belisle:                          Probably not.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Maybe it’s me.

Lisa Belisle:                          I don’t think it’s just you. But it is interesting, the way that you’re approaching this is, all right. I know there’s something. I’m not sure what it is. I’m going to keep kind of getting deeper into it and being patient with that process.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Right. And so I’m still discerning my vocation. I’m 37. I’m single. And I’m still open to whatever God has for me, whether it’s marriage or a consecrated form of life, totally giving my life to Him, and living in the world at the same time. But yeah, I don’t know. I’ve been praying a lot about where I am. And my prayer is, okay, so this is where I am. It’s almost like I have a plot of soil in front of me and I just want to till the soil and work at it with all of my heart and do the best that I can with where He has me right now. And so that’s my focus is to do the best I can and to serve the people of my parish to the best of my ability.

It’s such a blessing. I see all the people that I serve almost as my spiritual children, even the older ones. And we have beautiful families and just beautiful people, and so my heart is full. And they’re just so kind and loving to me too. But yeah, this is where he has me, and so I want to do the best I can. They say, “Bloom where you’re planted,” but I know that, that’s not it. And so yeah, maybe that’s just the way I am. It’s like, I’m here for now and then we’ll see what happens next, see where He brings me next.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s actually really common. But it’s unusual to hear people say that. A lot of people, the way that we are, I think, in this world, we want to go full force at whatever it is that we’re trying to … And we saying, “This is what I’m going to do forever,” or at least that’s what I hear. But you seem comfortable with this uncertainty and just doing the best you can where you are now.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. I think God’s prepped me for it. Yeah. There’s so many things I’ve been able to do in my life. I’ve been so blessed and there’s so many things that I can do and want to do. And there’s so many desires that I have. I love to teach, maybe go back to school and study theology. There’s so many things and I just want to kind of lay them out at the foot of the cross and just be led by Him totally and just trust Him with my life. And He’s so faithful and He’s so good. It’s a continual, every day, just trust, trust where He’ll lead me and guide me.

Lisa Belisle:                          And at the same time, you seem to like the friction of competition. You seem to like … You’re not satisfied to just kind of hang out and do whatever. You’re like, “I’m going to go for the next thing. I’m going to try to qualify for the Olympics.”

Tracy Guerrette:                  Yeah. You know what’s funny about that is, Coach Richard Barron is such a wonderful man. He was the head coach at The University of Maine. He took over in 2011 and he hired me and I became his Director of Operations. And so when I resigned the second time, he said, “Tracy, you just can’t be faithful like a Catholic. You have to think about becoming a nun. You just can’t run. You have to run marathons.” And so I think it’s just a part of who I am, just it’s ingrained in me. It’s just who God has made me to be. And I’m very passionate and very competitive.

And so with running, it’s been a blessing because I’m so competitive and I need that goal and that drive, and so running’s great for that. And thanks be to God that I’m able to do it at my age, because they say since I’m late to the sport, and as women we kind of tend to do better in our mid to late 30s in endurance sports, like in the marathon. And so I’m kind of hopefully hitting my prime. Yeah. How could would it be to run in the Olympic trials, run alongside the best of the best? Not that I’m going to win it. People are cute. God bless people. They’re so sweet. They think I’m going to the Olympics and I have to explain. I’m like, “No, I’m not. I’m not going to win the race.” Oh, yeah you can. It’s only 20 minutes. I’m like, “Yeah, but these women are running like five minute miles and that’s really fast.” But people are so supportive and so sweet. But yeah, what a neat goal to have, and so that’s kind of like my next. Even though I ran the time, that’s kind of my next goal.

Lisa Belisle:                          So you ran in California and it wasn’t what you wanted to run. You didn’t quite qualify, but now you’re going to again for Boston in the spring.

Tracy Guerrette:                  That’s right. Yeah. I ran the Maine Marathon and so unfortunately we didn’t know this, and even the race director wasn’t aware that it’s not a USATF certified course. And so despite the fact that I ran the qualifying time of … I ran a 2:43, which you have to run a sub 2:45, it doesn’t quality. And so we’ve petitioned USATF and everything, and I’m still praying for a miracle. So if there’s any way anybody listening and praying for a miracle that they would take the time, just because it was my first time running it and I won the marathon, and such an emotional day.

And so then I had it in mind to run the California International Marathon and didn’t run my time. I ran a two hours and 48 minutes out there. And I think I jumped back into training way too fast. And they say it’s not very prudent to do back to back marathons and I learned the hard way. Usually, you have one in the spring and one in the fall because your body naturally can’t just peak and then come down and peak again really quickly. And being the competitor that I am, I just jumped into heavy mileage and ran 120 miles a week, 115, 110. And sadly to admit, I ran 90 even before the race. I don’t know what I was thinking. So I ran 90 the week before, which is what not to do when you race marathons. But I was very thankful to go out there. One, it was California. I ran in shorts and a T-shirt.

But it was also the USATF national championships, so the field was loaded with all these amazing professional runners. And because of my time at Maine, I was an elite athlete, and so I was considered at elite athlete in the field, and so it was really neat to be kind of treated that way, kind of dip my toes into what it feels to be taken care of and to be an elite athlete at a race. We have our own bottles on the course and we get VIP treatment. We get this special bus to the start, our own little tent next to the start. This was important, extra porta potties before the race, all those small little things that help make it easier, so that was just a blessing.

And my mother came out with me and we spent the week. So we ran the race. I went out too hard. I didn’t run my time, but I was thankful to be out there. And when I run, I look at running too, as just my time with God. And so it was a great 26.2 miles of pain and suffering and praying because I was really tired and I suffered a lot. But it was just a great time of prayer and time spend with the Lord. And then after, Mom and I were able to go to Napa Valley and visit the vineyards and do some wine testing. And then we went to San Francisco and spend some time there. So it was a gift to be able to go out there and spend that time with my mom.

So I took some time off, and yeah, so Boston is my next goal race on Patriot’s Day. And I’ve already jumped back into training. Took some good time off, and now I’m back at it. It’s funny. You can tell you’re back at marathon training because I’m constantly tired and always hungry. I’m starting to crave pancakes again and so you know that you’re getting into training, serious training. So hopefully my goal for Boston would be a sub 2:40, so hopefully I could PR and run faster and get that qualifying time at Boston.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I appreciate your taking the time out of your busy schedule and all the people that you serve, and your running, which takes up a lot of time as well. I’ve been speaking with Tracy Guerrette, who is an elite runner who won the Maine Marathon last October, and also a former University of Maine basketball player and currently the director of Faith Formation at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Bangor. I guess I can still good luck. You don’t have to say break a leg.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Please don’t.

Lisa Belisle:                          So when running, not break a leg. Good luck at the Boston Marathon.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          And I’ll be paying attention.

Tracy Guerrette:                  Thank you. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 337. Our guests have included Hannah Cooke and Tracy Guerrette. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are happy that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our Editorial Producer is Brittany Cost. Our Assistant Producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our Community Development Manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our Executive Producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at Lovemaineradio.com.

 

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #336: Hannah and Chellie Pingree and Judy Camuso

Speaker 1:                              You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 336, airing for the first time on Sunday, February 25, 2018. Today we speak with former member of the Maine House of Representatives, Hannah Pingree, and Chellie Pingree, who currently represents Maine’s First District in Congress. Both Hannah and Chellie are active in the North Haven community and are champions of sustainable agriculture. We also speak with Judy Camuso, the Director of Wildlife for The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                              Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of The Old Port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          After serving four terms in the Maine House of Representatives, Hannah Pingree now works as the business manager of her family’s inn, restaurant, and farm, and manages North Haven Sustainable Housing. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree represents Maine’s First District in Congress. Thank you for coming in today.

Hannah Pingree:               Thanks for having us.

Chellie Pingree:                 Sure.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’re both pretty busy ladies.

Chellie Pingree:                 That’s true.

Lisa Belisle:                          Not just because of the Congress, but also because of all the work that you’re doing on North Haven.

Hannah Pingree:               Yes. You live in a small town, and I also have two kids, so you get sucked into a lot of things. My mom has started a couple businesses, but she’s busy in Congress, so-

Chellie Pingree:                 That’s right.

Hannah Pingree:               We know how to keep busy.

Lisa Belisle:                          Then, of course, you have your sister, who is also doing a lot of very interesting things on the island.

Hannah Pingree:               Yes. She runs a restaurant. She is a landlord. She makes films. Somehow we all have an inability to focus. We like to do a lot of things.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s a good thing, and then we don’t want to leave out the fact that you also have a son, Chellie.

Chellie Pingree:                 Yeah. That’s right. He’s a furniture builder, and he lives in Brooklyn, New York and has a child, but we always think someday he’ll move back to Maine because who doesn’t want to build furniture in Maine if you can?

Lisa Belisle:                          It seems like that would make sense.

Chellie Pingree:                 Totally makes sense. We’re working on it.

Lisa Belisle:                          So Turner Farm, tell me why did you originally have the interest in this place, which is beautiful? I’ve been there. I really enjoyed my visit. It seems quite idyllic, a nice, small, Maine island, but it also seems like it could require a lot of effort.

Chellie Pingree:                 True. Well, I mean I’ve been farming since the 1970s, and I farmed in two or three locations on North Haven. I originally came to Maine kind of when all the back-to-the-landers moved to Maine in the 1970s, and then I studied at College of the Atlantic with Eliot Coleman, who’s one of the masters of organic farming.

Hannah Pingree:               She majored in composting.

Chellie Pingree:                 Yeah, that’s right. I was in charge of composting.

Lisa Belisle:                          Which I love. It’s actually one of my favorite topics. I think I told you this when I was at the farm.

Chellie Pingree:                 Well, I learned to compost at College of the Atlantic, and it was my work-study job. Then I ended up on North Haven, and so I just felt very fortunate back in … It was around 2008 with my previous husband who had come to the island, and this farm just happened to come onto the market. It’s one of the historic farms in the community, probably one of the oldest farms, since the original family came in 1764, and the fact that it was being sold, and we were there at that moment in time.

It’s the biggest farm I’ve ever had the chance to operate and the most serious operation, and we’ve ended up expanding it quite a bit and clearing a lot of land that had grown up. It had been abandoned from farming for many years. Today we have eight greenhouses, so we’re able to operate it year-round. We have pigs, and chickens, and cows, and run barn dinners out of our barn, and do it in collaboration with our restaurant and inn. Also something I didn’t intend to do, but we now own all these businesses, and it’s been really wonderful to be able to operate such a historic farm, but also to have it done in collaboration with a restaurant so you can have this experience of eating food that was picked that morning.

Lisa Belisle:                          Is this something that people are surprised to learn about each of you when you first … Well, I mean both of you have been in government for quite a while at this point, but when they first meet you, are they surprised to learn that you both have this farming background?

Hannah Pingree:               It’s a better question for her. I mean I grew up on a farm, somewhat, when I was a little kid, and then she actually started a knitting business, and so I actually grew up as sort of in her small business part of her life, but she is the farmer, and she’s the farmer in Congress, and I think it’s added a lot of credibility. I mean she is one of the most involved members of Congress working on food policy and farm policy, so maybe they’re surprised, but I think it’s actually been really appreciated by the people she’s worked with that she does it, and she does it even in her spare time. When she’s not in Congress, she works on how we can make this farm work.

Personally, I am not a farmer, and we have an amazing couple that runs our farm, and they know so much more than I do. We all work on the business side of things, how we’re going to make it break even, so I’ve been deeply involved in that and how it connects to our restaurant, but I would say I don’t profess to be a farmer, but she is.

Chellie Pingree:                 Yeah, and it’s great for me. I mean nobody’s more fortunate than when your kids work in the same business that you do, and having Hannah have been involved in politics and now being able to do this, it’s great. I couldn’t continue to operate this farm if I didn’t have Hannah as the business manager and running everything and also the restaurant too.

It’s true, when I meet people in Congress, you don’t … People think that most politicians and members and members of Congress are lawyers. They just kind of have this idea that you went to law school, and you became a politician, and so when somebody says, “Well, what did you do in your background?” and I say, “Well, the only thing I’m really qualified to do is to be an organic farmer. It’s the only thing I ever studied, and it’s the one thing I’m technically able to do,” people are surprised.

I’ve served on the Agriculture Committee. I’m on the Agriculture Appropriations Committee. I’ve made it my number-one issue, and so I think my colleagues associate that with me, but sometimes when I talk to them about it, in some ways, people are as surprised that we live on an island and that we have to take a ferry to get home and that it’s a farm on an island. People in Maine have a certain sense of our island tradition and our coastal history, but anywhere else, and you say to someone, “Well, we ride a ferry,” or, “There’s a huge community. There are 14 year-round islands in Maine, and each of them have communities, and ours has a K through 12 school, and it’s a vibrant operating community,” I think people are very surprised.

Lisa Belisle:                          Hannah, when I was visiting this summer, you and I had a conversation about the fact that the summer residents really produce quite the market for fresh, well, produce, fruits, vegetables, and your farm dinners, which are very popular. Then you have a lot of visitors to the inn, but you’re a year-round farm, and you don’t have quite the same demand as the months move into the autumn and winter. How do you work with that?

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah. I mean that is the most complicated challenge, and it’s … I mean it’s not different than … Most of Maine is somewhat seasonal. I mean a lot of the tourism industry, a lot of farms have significant demand in the summertime, and then you got to figure out how to be creative. We have a lot of demand in July and August, and we could sell every piece of lettuce, goat … Whatever we have, we could sell it in July and August, so we have been creative.

We have a year-round CSA where we offer winter greens. That just started a couple weeks ago, and we actually deliver them to people on North Haven and Vinalhaven, and we have built a pretty significant base of clients up on the mainland. We sell to a bunch of food co-ops, restaurants. Because we grow year-round, that is somewhat unique, especially in January. The Good Tern in Rockland is psyched for out lettuce, and our spinach, and our kale, so … But it takes hard work. I mean it’s a pain in the butt to get things on and off the island, so we try to coordinate with things going on with my sister’s business and Nebo when we’re open, so we try as much … It takes more effort, but you have to be more creative to make it work, and we’re working on it.

Chellie Pingree:                 We also, I mean, part of our business model is that we have eight greenhouses, which many farms in Maine are now using hoop houses to extend the season. Five of them are not heated, but three of them are heated by wood that we cut on our property. There’s a lot of waste wood on North Haven because there’s just a lot of fallen trees, so finding wood isn’t a problem, but keeping a fire going, and maintaining it, and the cost of the infrastructure was a part of it, but more and more farms are doing that in Maine because, again, it’s a way to extend your season.

Frankly, if you ever have the chance to eat spinach that’s grown in the winter in a hoop house that’s maybe gotten a little bit of frost on it, it has a whole different flavor. There’s something about the cool weather that really changes the taste. The quality of the stuff we grow in winter, some of it is as good or better than what we grow in the summer. [crosstalk 00:09:26]-

Hannah Pingree:               The people in Maine need green things. In January and February, they do appreciate it.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, we were just over in Rome visiting my daughter who’s studying abroad, and we noticed that there weren’t a lot of vegetables being served because, even though it’s warmer there, their local produce is shutting down this time of year. The availability of greens is something that you don’t notice that you have until it’s not there.

Hannah Pingree:               In the US supermarkets, there are boxes of greens year-round. They’re a little sadder, even at Hannaford in the wintertime, but I think people do appreciate a locally-grown, organic product. I think there are more and more people who appreciate that. On North Haven, because we realized it was easier, we actually deliver people’s CSA to their houses, so it’s about as easy as it can get, and we have a very diverse group of people who are into it.

Lisa Belisle:                          This ability to be a business person has been really important to both of you and something that, from what I’m guessing, has taken time. It’s not something that, even if you had an MBA, which I don’t think either one of you does, it’s something that really comes with practice and really being the owner of your own business. Tell me what that was like for you, initially, as the person who studied composting, and gardening, and farming to start developing your business skills.

Chellie Pingree:                 Right. Well, I mean I came about it because I wanted to be a farmer, but I was lucky. At College they had a couple of business classes. Way back in the 1970s, Dan, who’s no longer with us, taught a class, and I remember that I learned double-entry bookkeeping, which doesn’t mean anything to anybody anymore because you have Quicken, and you have your computer system, and everything else, but in my first farm, I had a pencil, and a ledger. My dad was a actually an accountant, and he used to come out and visit. I was from Minnesota originally. He would come out and visit for three weeks in the fall, and he’d go over all my books and find the mistakes. It was a more complicated thing then, and I … but it was what I learned to do.

I feel like business, to me, is something I learned along the way. It was I started with my first farm and one apprentice and selling in the summer. That was way back in the 1970s when Hannah was first born. Then, over the years, I developed a yarn business, and we had a mail-order company. In the ’70s and ’80s, we sold to 1,200 accounts around the country, and we had mail-order catalogs back before there were computers. Everything I learned was a little bit along the way.

It’s been great to have Hannah who, you’re right, doesn’t have an MBA, but served in the legislature, was on the Appropriations Committee, Speaker of the House, you have to deal with budgets, and is way better at computer spreadsheets and all the things that we have to do now. We’ve just learned it along the way, but there’s a lot to it, all the rules and regulations when you’re dealing with food or restaurants. You’ve got all the food safety issues. When you have employees, which we have more than 50 at the height of the summer, you’ve got payrolls, and healthcare insurance, and everything else. I feel like we’re constantly learning and figuring out ways to do it.

Then the business model, I mean everybody who farms knows that it’s not easy to make a living on a farm. It’s not easy to make your farm work. Restaurants are even trickier sometimes and seasonal businesses, as many people have in Maine, and our season is very short. You got to pay for that infrastructure year-round, and so we’re constantly trying to look for the right way to go about doing it.

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah, I mean I would agree with all of that. My whole growing up, my mom has been a business person and in politics. Even before she ran for the state legislature, she was a school board member. I’m now on the school board. I was in the legislature. I think that we both come at business from a, at least I do, from a perspective of it’s actually something good for our community too. I mean people need jobs. The community needs diversification. Her knitting business was actually a lot about employing women on the island year-round, and at that point when she started it in the ’80s and ’90s, there were not a lot of year-round jobs for women. I think our restaurant and our farm have actually … They employ year-round people. They have brought people to the island. It’s actually sort of a joint social/business mission.

I mean I will say running a restaurant and a farm are not good ways to make money. Our goal is always break even, and if we make money, fantastic, but it’s really to keep something that we believe enhances the community sustainable. It’s important for the community because, one, you have a place to eat or buy food, but it also has provided people with employment, and it sort of adds vibrancy to any community. You need those kind of things, so that’s how we’ve … We’ve probably come at it, at times, too altruistic, and you learn hard lessons that way, but it’s, I think, especially in small towns in main, small businesses are sort of how we keep things going. It’s how people can be able to stay there, so that’s really what’s driven me to continue to put the amount of work that restaurants, and freight, and employees, and some of the hassles are … They don’t seem worth it, but then, in the big picture, they are.

Chellie Pingree:                 That’s how a lot of people in Maine, I think, get into business. I want to be a business person, then you find sort of the ideal business to do, but more often, it’s somebody who makes something great, who developed a product. I meet people all the time, particularly women, they’ve developed a food product or any kind of idea, and somebody says, “Well, you should sell those.” Then, before you know it, you’ve sold it at crafts fair, and then you said it to retail stores, and then you’ve got to figure out, “I’ve got employees. Now I have a facility.” You hear that story, and I’m sure you’ve heard it and written about it many, many times.

I actually saw a statistic the other day. I often talk to groups of women on businesses, and women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the entrepreneurial economy, and Maine happens to be a leader. It’s number one or two in the growth of women-owned businesses and women-started businesses. Women are also the most likely to start their business by using their credit cards because they can’t get a loan at the bank, which is something that should change, but it’s still kind of a sad statistic.

The truth is, a lot of times, in a state like Maine where there aren’t multiple big employers in every small town, where it’s a very rural economy, people get an idea. They think, “Oh, my kids are growing up,” or, “I want to supplement this and stay at home. What can I do?” You become a business person, in a sense, sort of the back way, and you learn along the way, but many times you understand the notions of business better because you’re always trying to figure out how do I add value to this product, or income for my family, or all the things that people want to do.

Lisa Belisle:                          I think one of the things that you just mentioned about how do I balance, I guess, having children or just a family, even if you don’t have children, how do I balance that with also making a living? I think that is very important in many of the … Specifically, women, although, increasingly, men are trying to find a way that they can do both, that they can do something that’s very fulfilling that’s not related to their families but also be available for their families. I mean the importance of family, I think, has always been utmost, but I think it’s even coming around again. Is this something that you are seeing with the people that you work with?

Hannah Pingree:               I mean I actually think back to even the businesses that my mom started. I mean the farm, we were little kids just wandering around while she was farming, and then she started this yarn business. I used to get off the school bus at her yarn company and hang out and help her employees. I’m sure we were a pain in the butt, but it was so a part of our lives, and I think that, obviously, the closer you work to home, the more possible that is.

I mean, for me, my job in politics was a lot of travel, and it was being in Augusta and being away. I have young kids, two kids under four, five and six, and so I think that it’s a good time to be really in my community, and having a small business in a small town allows you to still go to the school events, and go to your school board meetings, and be involved in your kids’ lives. I mean it’s a jungle. Same as the city. I mean, in rural areas, you got to find a babysitter. There’s sometimes a childcare program and aftercare, so it’s a lot more work, and my husband and I, I was like, “Oh, my God. She’s coming off the school bus at 3:00. Who’s going to stop working to go?” I mean our kids they … maybe they don’t even know how great it is how much they see us, and if I’m on the mainland for a day or two, it’s like, “When are you coming back?” No, I think, especially for young kids, I’ve found that that has been fulfilling.

I mean it is not always easy. I mean Amanda Hallowell, who is our head chef at Nebo and really helps run Nebo, she had a newborn the second summer we were open, and she’s now 10 years old. Every summer, it’s always a juggle of trying to run a restaurant and having a kid, but I think we live in a small town where, at this point, her daughter can sort of check in, “All right, mom. I’m going to go run around town.” I mean that’s sort of what small towns in Maine are good for, and it’s obviously much easier to do that on an offshore island than it would be in Portland.

Chellie Pingree:                 I do think people see that as a value, though, about … I mean when you talk to people who say, “I’m moving to Maine,” or, “I just moved to Maine,” or, “I grew up in Maine, and I want to bring my family back, ” or, “I’ve decided I want to figure out a way to stay,” again, there are places where the job is right there. You know what you’re going to do, but a lot of communities, if you decide you want to stay in the town you grew up or move to a rural community, you’re thinking, “Okay, what is it I’m going to do?” Do one of you have a job that’s portable, you can still work for a company you used to work for, or can you do something online, or is there something you always wanted to do that you could turn into a business, or take over a family business?”

I feel like Maine people are, in many ways, more entrepreneurial because we don’t have the guaranteed job that you can go into, and especially as we’ve seen some of the economic changes, mills closing, and things that have really changed people’s lives. We just have a lot of people think about, “Okay, what could I do to make ends meet?” In the community like where we live or, I think, a lot of places, you find people who have multiple jobs. You just don’t go to one employer. Our community, we have a lot of fisherman. Most fisherman work in the summer, but then, in the winter, maybe they paint houses, or they work on a plumbing crew, or they fix boats. There’s just a lot of things people do, substitute school teaching, things like that. That’s a big part of, I think, the Maine economy.

Lisa Belisle:                          One of the things that I noticed about your island is that everybody seems to know everybody, and they know that you’re not from there, but they’re nice. They wave if you’re walking down the street.

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah, hopefully. Yes, they usually are.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah.

Hannah Pingree:               Sometimes in the end of August we’re all-

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. Well, that makes sense. I think, at the end of the tourist season, a lot of people in Maine feel that way, so it’s not just your island. I think that it also, from what I understand talking to other people from Maine islands, specifically our small towns, is that there’s a sense of keeping it real in that you have to coexist with people that may not necessarily share your philosophy, your beliefs, but you all … You need to have somebody who’s going to take care of your kids, somebody who’s going to educate your kids, somebody who’s going to plow the driveway, somebody who’s going to do different things within the community, so trying to at least understand where they’re coming from and not alienating them, is that something that we could translate into a bigger … a way of maybe helping the current political environment? I’m trying to say this in a way that makes sense.

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah. No, no, I mean it’s totally … I mean she’s talked about it, and given speeches about it, written about it. I mean I think my entire childhood on the island … the island’s, I mean, it’s changed and evolved a little bit, but it’s still … There are 350 to 400 people who live on the island. I know all of them. Not everybody loves each other, but you wave to everybody. You would talk to everybody. I have good friends that I went to high school with who support Donald Trump, and I will … some of them, I’ll argue with. Some of them will joke about it, but at least I can see where they’re coming from, and we can have a civil conversation.

More importantly, I think it’s a small community. We all rely on each other for all kinds of things, in bad situations, to help plumb your house or fix your furnace when it’s broken. I think that level of small community, we all are in this together, is certainly … I mean that’s one challenge we all see going on in our country, that this … we do rely on each other and that that sense fading is pretty damaging and scary for kind of the whole concept of our country. Our government and our system of democracy is very reliant on people talking to each other and relying on each other.

I mean, for me, I feel like there are pros and cons to living in a very small town and on an island, but I completely valued … I mean I went to North Haven Community School grades kindergarten trough 12, and all my classes were very diverse, and those people are still my friends, and we don’t all have the same point of view or the same career path, but you … I think kids learn a lot growing up with people who are … We lack some diversity, but we have a real diversity of opinions and sort of places we’re coming from.

Chellie Pingree:                 I mean, obviously, I’ve lived there since before I had kids, and my kids grew up there. As Hannah said, it was great to have your kids grow up in school where it wasn’t sort of like everybody’s parent did a certain kind of job. I mean some kids’ parents are fishermen, some kids’ parents are schoolteachers. There is this kind of mixture of opinions and political views. I think, in a way, one of the nice things about a small town … You’re right about how does it translate into the sort of national political scene and the time that we’re in.

You kind of lead with your working relationship with each other and your life relationship with each other. You see the plumber on the street, and you say, “What kind of new faucet to you think I should get for my bathtub?” I don’t know. You’re more likely to have practical conversations with people, and you have this sort of connection with each other because of the island. Oh, the weather gets bad, I don’t think the ferry will go. You just have these things you kind of talk about, or think about, or that you can relate on, and so you don’t think about each other as a political point of view or, “Gosh, that person’s so different from me.”

Hannah mentioned it earlier. I mean we’ve been in business in a family way in most of our life, and it hasn’t always been like how do we start a business and make the most we can off of everybody? It’s part of being in a community, and the people who work for you, you don’t think about how can I squeeze them on their wages? You think about, man, if my employees don’t have healthcare, I’m going to know it that they don’t get the services that they need, or the fact that all of our kids basically go to a public school.

Being on the school board is a tough job in a small town because we all understand that it’s the one school your kids are going to go to, and everybody has strong opinions about it, and everybody went to school themselves, and everybody pays the property tax. You’re very close to the mechanics of all of it, but you also understand if you don’t have a good public school, then young people won’t want to raise their kids there. If you live in a town that finite, like an island, and young people don’t want to live there, pretty soon, everybody’s old and the place doesn’t survive.

I think you do get a more of a gut sense about how things work and a sense of we’re all in it together, which seems much harder to visualize in our political situation today. I mean I feel really lucky because I got to deal with the difficulties of Washington politics today and the incredible frustration and bad things that are going on and how constituents feel about the lack of ability of Congress to get along, but I kind of have this model of coming back to Maine, and so I’m constantly reminded that people are good, that communities can function, and that even when you go through a hard time … Small towns go through hard times. You have a fight over the school or you have a fight over the speed bumps in the road. I mean we figure out ways to fight over all kinds of things, should we build a new ferry or not? But you kind of work it out, and you got to work it out with the people who vote the same way you do, or don’t vote the same way you do, or live in a house like yours, or don’t live in a house like yours.

It’s been a really good lesson for me, and I think it makes … For me, it gives me a whole different perspective about being in Washington because I think, “No, people are really good, and we have lots of communities in Maine where people work through hard stuff and get along with each other, and they wave every day.” In our town, if you don’t wave at somebody, that’s a major offense. They’ll come up to you and say, “Why didn’t you wave at me? Are you mad at me about something?” It funny.

Lisa Belisle:                          Hannah, I know one of the projects you have been working on is a place for older people to live once they get to the point where they can’t take care of themselves, and it seems like that’s an important consideration for island communities. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of schools and having those available on small islands, but now really having a place where older people can be still a part of their community as they age, because sending them to the mainland doesn’t necessarily contribute to positive health.

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah, yeah. We will be the fourth offshore island to develop a small assisted living facility. The ideal, again, is that, as people get to a point where they can no longer live in their homes, if they require extra care … In the past, people had to move off the island. They move off the island, and they’re in Rockland or somewhere else, and middle of the winter, maybe people visit them every couple weeks, and it’s incredibly lonely. You have an older person who’s spent couple years or their entire lives on this one island, and then they have to die somewhere else or spend their last 2 to 10 years of their lives … A group of community members has been talking about this for a long time. They’ve seen Vinalhaven, and Chebeague, and Isleboro do it.

Then we had a summer resident donate her beautiful summer home, which she couldn’t sell, to the housing organization that I work for, so I’ve been working in collaboration with this assisted living organization for a couple years to raise the funds to build more bedrooms onto this house to make a six-bed facility, and it should open sometime this spring. It’s a lot of where people are, “Another nonprofit,” and, “Do we really … How much is this going to cost?” But I think most people see. We have a community center. We have a school. We have a grocery store. We sort of have a lot of the elements that a town needs to function, but if you lose your older population or even the handful of them that are forced to leave, that just is sort of a void that doesn’t seem fair.

I think a lot of us had stories of people who we were close to having to move off and just sort of the heartbreak of that, so I’m hoping it will be very successful. It’s a lot of work to raise money for things, and build buildings, and building on islands is more complicated. Certainly, the group that will run this facility, it will be a big job, but I think it will be a really amazing additional community element to kind of keep our community cohesive and together.

Lisa Belisle:                          Isn’t this also an example of working with what’s a seemingly smaller population but that also has ripples into the larger community, where it’s not just the older person who has to move off the island, but it’s the family members around the older person who then need to shift to a completely different way of living, which can put a lot of strain on, not only a family, but a community?

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah. Again, we’ve seen examples of people who they’re family has had … They try to take care of them at home for a while, and that’s been a situation that maybe lasted too long and led to difficult health outcomes, and then they have the family on the mainland. An older person, you’re trying to go visit your friend on the mainland, but you only get there twice a winter, and you’re heartbroken, and they’re heartbroken, so I think it should lead to some situations for multiple families that are much improved, and I actually think for the entire community. I mean we hope this is a facility where other seniors have a place to gather. Especially in the wintertime, it’s pretty lonely … and can get extra meals, or school kids can interact in a more clear way with seniors on a regular basis, so there are a lot of elements of sort of improving people’s lives other than just the six people who live there.

Chellie Pingree:                 There’s the situation that people get into where they’re older, they don’t want to leave the community, but it’s just very hard for them to stay in their house. Maybe it costs a lot to heat, or it’s drafty, or they can’t get around very well. Frankly, everywhere in Maine, there’s a shortage of affordable housing. There’s always a shortage of housing, so sometimes that means if that senior can move into the other facility, then that’s a house that comes back onto the market. They can sell it while there’s still some value in it, or they can turn it over to another family member who then has a place to live, and they’re in a comfortable situation that’s just right for them. I mean there’s a reason this happens in other places, and it’s just … It is a really important of a small community that lots of places are starting to recognize.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s like the farm. It’s another example of pulling on a string over here and having it impact the rest of the world around it.

Hannah Pingree:               Yeah, yep.

Lisa Belisle:                          Well, I appreciate all the work that each of you are doing, both in a practical sense and a more theoretical sense as far as government. Well, that’s also practical, I guess. I don’t want to-

Chellie Pingree:                 Absolutely.

Hannah Pingree:               Hopefully, hopefully, some days.

Chellie Pingree:                 On some days, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s right. I’ve been speaking with Hannah Pingree who, after serving four terms in the Maine House of Representatives, now works as the business manager of her family’s inn, restaurant, and farm, and manages North Haven Sustainable Housing, and also with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s First District in Congress. Thank you for all your hard work, and thank you for coming in today.

Hannah Pingree:               Thanks for having us.

Chellie Pingree:                 Sure. Thank you.

Speaker 1:                              Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where every body is seen as a work of art, and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                          Judy Camuso is the Director of Wildlife for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. As director, Judy oversees the management, protection, and enhancement of over 500 birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that call Maine home. Thanks for coming in.

Judy Camuso:                      Thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          500 doesn’t seem like that much. Is that actually the number? We must have gotten it from somewhere.

Judy Camuso:                      Oh, so it’s probably 500 birds.

Lisa Belisle:                          Ah.

Judy Camuso:                      There’s like 60,000 invertebrates.

Lisa Belisle:                          Okay. All right.

Judy Camuso:                      So yeah, it’s a little bigger than that, but yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Yeah. Well, thank you for clarifying because I don’t know as much about wildlife, but it seemed like that number was a little on the low side.

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Tell me how you got into this field.

Judy Camuso:                      That’s an interesting question, and it’s kind of a dull answer, but I was just always this way. I’m an anomaly in my family, and from the time I was a little kid, I was just always outside and interested in nature and wildlife, so it was just a natural sort of career path for me. I’ve never considered doing anything that didn’t involve animals, so I went from wanting to be a farmer to veterinarian to wildlife biologist, so it was a pretty natural progression for me.

Lisa Belisle:                          You say you were an anomaly in your family. What did your family do?

Judy Camuso:                      Oh, my family, I’m from up right outside of Boston, so they’re just much more urban folks and more interested in skiing and golfing, more traditional sort of … the boating and the stuff like that but not necessarily counting birds or amphibians or whatever.

Lisa Belisle:                          So when they were out on the golf course, you were hanging out in the rough and looking at the insects and things like that? Is that what you’re saying?

Judy Camuso:                      Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Wildlife biology, tell me about that path. How do you get from A to B when you want to become a wildlife biologist?

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah. I mean when I started in school, it wasn’t as common a field, particularly for women, as it is now, and there weren’t a whole lot of options or places to go, so I went to the University of Vermont. I just met some folks, some other students that were in this career or this major program, and I started taking some of their classes, and it just fit for me. It was just a really good fit. I worked for a few summers at various national wildlife refuges, and it was just like you got to be kidding me that this could be a career, this could be something that I do for my whole life. I’m, I would say, really lucky in that sort of the things I’m passionate about in life are what I get to work on, which is … It’s not that common, I don’t think.

Lisa Belisle:                          A day in the life of someone who is a wildlife biologist, what would that look like?

Judy Camuso:                      It’s totally random, varies every day, and it almost never is what you think it’s going to be. I could tell a million stories, but one day, for whatever reason, I rode my bike to work, and I had a … I’m kind of a big lister, so I had my regular list to do and was going over the list on my bike ride in. I get there, and there’s a … The other biologist that I worked with, Norm, at the time, he’s sort of clamoring around, and he’s like, “There’s a moose. We just got a call from the game warden. There’s a moose stuck out on an island in the Androscoggin River, and we need to go respond to that,” so I’m like, “All right. Let me get my bike clothes off here and change.” I go and call the game warden and start to make arrangements for that, and he’s all set, and then, within a couple minutes, there’s been some kind of eider die-off, and so now we’re heading to respond to collect eiders, and then there was a small oil spill at the same time, and then we had a minor with some of the exclosures with our piping plover program.

None of those things are on my list to do for that day but, usually, a normal day would be some kind of field work where we’re monitoring, managing, researching some kind of wildlife. There’s still a good amount of office work that isn’t as … It’s not what you think of when you picture a wildlife biologist, but we all do have to do a fair amount of report writing and that kind of thing.

Lisa Belisle:                          As a doctor, I find it interesting and challenging to focus just on humans, and what you’re telling me … You just mentioned a moose and an eider, which I think is a duck?

Judy Camuso:                      Yes. Yeah, sorry.

Lisa Belisle:                          That’s a duck and a-

Judy Camuso:                      Piping plover is a shore bird.

Lisa Belisle:                          Plover is a shore bird. I’ve seen the signs along the beach.

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah. Right, right, right, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Then we know about the amphibians that we’ve talked about and reptiles. I mean how do you know so much about all of those different species?

Judy Camuso:                      That’s the wonderful thing, and really, I don’t. I’m much more of a generalist. In my position now, as director, that’s ideal, so I have a kind of a broad knowledge of a lot of things but not real in-depth. The department that I work for, Maine Fish and Wildlife, has a whole suite of what we call species specialists, and so they focus on either one or two species or a small suite of species, so we have someone that focused just on reptiles and amphibians, someone that focuses just on invertebrates, someone that focuses just … Actually, moose has their own biologist. Some of our staff are divided up, and they are more generalist, and they have to deal with the whole suite of species in their region. Then we have some that focus, and the folks that focus do a little more research on those particular animals that they are responsible for.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are the responsibilities of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife?

Judy Camuso:                      We’re responsible for the management, and protection, and enhancement of wildlife resources in the state, so we oversee everything inland, so we don’t deal with the marine stuff, but everything from mayflies to moose. We’re responsible for making sure that they have healthy populations, healthy habitats. We do management for those species. We do oversee all the harvest and the bag limits for the species that are hunted, which is really just a small portion of the animals we have responsibility for. We do policy around those animals. We do all the recovery for endangered species in the state. It’s pretty broad responsibility. Then, on top of it, we try to talk to the public about it and give them some education as to what we’re doing and why.

Lisa Belisle:                          Last fall, you were at Maine Audubon having a conversation with the public, which I understand was a spirited discussion. People were very engaged from what I hear.

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          What is it that people are interested in hearing about?

Judy Camuso:                      Oh, I mean, it varies. I would say, in my experience, people just love wildlife, and so they love hearing about all the various projects that we work on. The department has a number of initiatives that we include the public in and so that people can participate. In general, and we’ve done a number of surveys recently, of public surveys to sort of document this, the people in the state of Maine are overwhelmingly supportive and engaged with wildlife, so whether it’s just the gray squirrels in their backyard, or birds at their bird feeder, or people actively going out trying to see moose, or puffins, or whatever the case may be. It’s one of the things I love most about Maine is that people are really connected to their environment more so than, say, in Massachusetts where I grew up.

Lisa Belisle:                          Is your job easier, in some ways, than it would be if you were in a state with more urban settings?

Judy Camuso:                      Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean a lot of what we do in the department is manage human-wildlife interactions, whether it’s positive or not positive, so if there are folks that have issues, if they have raccoons or other issues, then our job is to try and help those folks deal with those situations. The more people you have interacting with wildlife, the more opportunities for conflict arise, and so we’re lucky in that we don’t have as many of those kind of conflicts or nuisance complaints, as we would call them, as many of our southern states.

Lisa Belisle:                          What about, I guess, the infringement of humans upon the wildlife habitat, which I would think is not as much of an issue in Jackman but probably is more of an issue in Cumberland Country.

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah, yeah. Certainly, that is something we deal with every day, and I would say it’s one of the more important things that the department works on, and it’s one of the lesser-known … This is sort of the less-sexy, if you will, aspects of our responsibility. We do work with our sister agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, and we oversee and we provide comments for all the development projects in the state. As part of that, we have several different habitat wildlife resources that are mapped as protected or significant, so we call them significant wildlife habitats. That includes areas for shore birds, vernal pools, areas for threatened or endangered species, and wading bird waterfall habitats.

A lot of what we have mapped are either sort of water bodies and the … It’s kind of the borders around those or riverine systems and kind of a buffer, and so the things we look at are habitat for the individual species or the individual animal, but also then connections, so making sure that the animal can get from point A to point B if it needs to. Usually, rivers and streams are excellent connectors, so those are kind of critical habitats. We work with DEP and provide comments to anybody applying for a permit to do some kind of develop, and that’s a huge portion of what we do.

We also have a suite of staff that work specifically with towns and try to help towns do long-range planning, do comprehensive planning so that they can incorporate what’s important for their town, whether it be they want open space, or they want the ball fields in the right space. Whatever the case may be, we work with those towns to help them try and achieve those goals. Of course, our angle is wildlife habitat, or fisheries and wildlife habitat, but we work with all the different towns to try and accomplish sort of mutually-beneficial goals.

Lisa Belisle:                          One of the things that we ask people when they come in for the radio show is a place in Maine that you love, and I have never had anybody say the Brownfield Bog, which is … It’s a beautiful spot. I believe that I canoed past there when I was on the Saco River.

Judy Camuso:                      Right, yeah, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          It’s unique.

Judy Camuso:                      Yes.

Lisa Belisle:                          Why do you love that spot?

Judy Camuso:                      That’s so funny, yeah. People probably pick more sort of well-known locations. Brownfield, for me, is a spot, ever since I’ve moved to Maine, I’ve gone there every year. It’s a fantastic birding location. The things I love about it are it’s so close to Portland, so it’s 45 minutes to get to Brownfield Bog, but once you get there, you feel like you are in kind of a vast wilderness area. There’s not really many neighbors. There’s hardly any sounds. Once you’re out in the bog, and I canoe the bog quite a bit, you can’t … There’s no houses. There’s just no noise. It’s just right in the valley of the White Mountains. You can see Mount Washington, so you have this incredible vistas. It’s totally quiet. I probably shouldn’t be talking about it on the radio because it’s totally underutilized, which is what I, personally, like. You don’t run into other people very often out there.

One of my responsibilities when I worked down in Region A was to … Every spring we do, basically, bird surveys there, so I would do two or three bird surveys every spring out there. Some of it, in order to meet our protocols for the bird surveys, I would have to leave my house at like 2:30 in the morning to get to the bog and get in my canoe. We’d get up in the tree stand by like 4:30, 4:45, so that I could be ready when the birds started being active. When you sort of visit a place so often like that, you really … at least I become sort of attached to it and intimately familiar with just the animals that are there and all the various species of wildlife, so it’s always been one of my favorite places, and it continues to be.

Plus, it has wicked cool birds. There’s birds that you can see there that are really hard to see in other parts of the state. Black-billed cuckoo, yellow-throated vireo are two kind of my … or yellow-billed cuckoo, a couple of my favorites, so I would always go there every year to try and find those birds, and … Yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Do you think that we focus maybe a little too much on moose? I mean it seems as though it’s become the thing that Maine is known for. We have lobsters, and we have moose.

Judy Camuso:                      Right, moose, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          Not to disparage moose. I like them. They’re fine, but considering all the other wildlife-

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah, yeah. I mean I think the thing that’s kind of compelling about moose is that they’re big, right, so they’re easier to see than a lot of species, and they, very often, don’t run off, so they allow you to watch and observe them. Most all other wildlife does kind of run off, right, other than … I mean squirrels might let you watch them, but most other animals are aware of your presence, and they prefer not to be around you. Moose, I think, are appealing to people because they let them observe them, and so there’s a sort of a passion about moose. I think people too are pretty passionate about moose. It’s certainly hard to not pay attention to the economic value that animal brings to the state and the amount of tourism, that people come into Main to see moose, but we do have a lot of other really cool species too.

Lisa Belisle:                          So short answer is no. You think that we are not overemphasizing the importance of moose in our state.

Judy Camuso:                      When I first started by career at Audubon, my number-one goal was always to try and get people to connect with nature in some fashion. It didn’t matter what it was, whether it was plants, birds, turtles, frogs, just something to get them to connect to nature. My goal was always, once people have a connection and then they become passionate, they’re willing to fight for and try and help protect those things. If it’s moose that connects someone, then great. It doesn’t matter what the kind of trigger is as long as we make those connections with people. Moose allow us to do that, but there are lots of other species, I agree, that we could probably focus a little bit more on.

Lisa Belisle:                          To be clear, I have nothing against moose. Anybody who’s listening, please don’t write me and say, “What do you have against them?” because I love them too. They’re great.

Judy Camuso:                      Right, yeah. They do get a lot of attention.

Lisa Belisle:                          I also understand that you were very involved with owls at one point when you were at the Audubon.

Judy Camuso:                      Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                          We still have one of our producers, Brittany, who remembers being a child and holding an owl in her hand, so clearly, you made a huge impression upon her and probably other children.

Judy Camuso:                      I know. I was surprised that she remembered that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I banded northern saw-whet owls for about 20 years in my backyard. I did that sort of in addition to whatever job I had, and it was just an opportunity that I was afforded through a woman that I used to work with. It’s a tremendous privilege to have that opportunity and, as such, I was pretty adamant that we expose as many people as we could. It’s not very often you have an owl, a wild owl, in your hand.

When I was married and then after I got divorced, I continued to have people to my house, probably 10 or 15 groups a fall. Two or three nights a week, almost every single night that there was good weather, we would have at least some people over to see the process, so there probably have been a couple thousand people that have been through. I think, for a while, I would go into the grocery store, and I would see people, and they would be like, “Oh, you’re the owl lady.” I’d be like, “Well, that is one thing I do.” I like to think that some people got an exposure that they didn’t have and learned some things there.

Lisa Belisle:                          You mentioned that when you first started in this field there weren’t as many women that were doing this job, and that has changed, so how-

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah, so it’s changing.

Lisa Belisle:                          Or is changing. How is this happening? Why is it that more women are getting interested in this?

Judy Camuso:                      I know. It’s an interesting question. When I started in Region, I was the only female biologist in one of the regions, and we had several women in our Bangor office, which is more research-based, but in the regions, there was only one. I was the only female, and I don’t know exactly why, but it is changing. To be honest, I oversee a lot of the … I don’t necessarily get involved with every single one of the interview processes we do, but for a long time, there was just more men applying than women.

We did interviews just a month or two ago for a position in Strong, in our Strong office, and they brought me the list of people they were going to interview, and the folks that had reviewed the interviews and had come up with the list, they hadn’t paid attention. I looked, and I said, “This is the first time, I think, in the history of the department, that we have four men and four women. It’s equal people that we’re interviewing,” and there’d been like 100 people that had applied. Now we have quite a few women, and it’s probably … For the Wildlife Division, it’s not quite 50/50, but it’s still probably 60/40, but I mean I’m the first female director, and I hope that, as more women enter the field and more women enter leadership positions, that will encourage more women to get involved in the field.

Lisa Belisle:                          How do you personally stay connected with nature? You talked about canoeing in the Brownfield Bog. What other types of things do you do that are outside of the job that you have?

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah. I do a lot of hiking. Oh, I guess hiking might be an aggressive term. I do a lot of walking in the woods. I still love to canoe and bike. I used to do a lot of birding. I don’t do as much birding anymore, but I still do a good deal. I pay attention wherever I am to what kind of birds are around me. I garden a lot. I’m outside, if possible, most of the time in my free time.

Lisa Belisle:                          That must be very interesting that you have this position, which probably requires a fair amount office time and paperwork, but really, your passion is outside the office and probably not as much paperwork.

Judy Camuso:                      Right, right, right, yeah. This is a challenge, I think, for a lot of people in this field is that kind of as you move up in the agency, there’s less and less field time. I think I was interviewed a couple years ago, and it’s the first time it’s ever occurred to me, but the interviewer asked, “What’s your favorite thing? What’s the best thing about your job?” Without thinking, my response was, “The people I work with,” and I got into this field for wildlife, right, and to protect wildlife. My whole life, that’s all I ever thought about or focused on was protecting wildlife. Then my answer, without thinking, was the people I work with, and I said, “When did that happen? When did that switch?”

It was interesting, kind of, for me to see that, but now I really do. My job is to make sure that everybody else can do their job, and I still get to go and … In some ways, it’s one of the benefits of my job, but I can still call the moose biologist, or the bear biologist, or the shore bird biologist, and say, “Hey, I need a day in the field. Would you mind if I tag along?” They usually will accommodate me, so I try to get out as much as I can. It depends on the season but, usually, in the summer I have a little more freedom when the legislature’s not in session, so I try and get out still.

Lisa Belisle:                          What are some of the issues that have been important to your department in the last few years?

Judy Camuso:                      Well, I would say we just finished up a big-game plan, which is a 10-year plan for how we’re going to manage sort of out four big-game species, bear, moose, deer, and turkey, and so making sure that we have the tools that we need to manage species at a population level that’s healthy, and so that kind of healthy term is questionable for people because is it … it’s got to be both healthy for the animal … Our job is, or at least all of our staff, they’re primary focus is they want healthy wildlife populations. They don’t want animals that are starving to death or dying of heavy parasite loads, things like that, but then there’s the other component of it also has to be healthy for people, right, so there’s a social caring capacity and a kind of a biological caring capacity, and so our job is to make sure that one doesn’t kind of trip the other.

We could probably have more deer in southern Maine, but that would not be in the best interest of the people that live in southern Maine, so finding some of those balances and how we’re going to find a way to move forward, there’s no question. We have had two referendums on our bear hunting methods, and so that’s always kind of lingering, and making sure that we can maintain a healthy bear population that doesn’t have a lot of negative interactions with the public. We’ve been very lucky so far, and we don’t have a lot of poorly-behaved bears. That’s how I would phrase it. Some of the other states have, really, quite a bit more aggressive bears than we have, and so we want to make sure that we can maintain healthy bear populations that are able to kind of coincide with the public that they live around. I think that’s kind of always our goal.

Lisa Belisle:                          For an individual who is interested in getting into your field, somebody who’s maybe in high school or early in college, what’s the one thing that you could suggest to them to kind of keep them motivated to study?

Judy Camuso:                      Yeah. Well, it’s an awesome job. I don’t know of many other opportunities where you really do get to be outside a good portion of the year, year-round, I mean, so that’s not always a plus for everybody because the weather conditions can sometimes be a bit extreme, buy you get to be outside. You get to work with people who are passionate and help protect populations of wildlife, so it’s a pretty fantastic job. It is pretty competitive field, and there’s not … we only have 45 biologists in the department, so it’s a pretty tight competitive field, so I encourage people to … I think this is what I put is you got to figure out what you love and figure out what you’re passionate about and do that, whether it’s birds, or reptiles, or mammals, or whatever the case may be, bugs, butterflies. Figure out what you’re passionate about and just follow that.

Lisa Belisle:                          I’ve been speaking with Judy Camuso, who is the Director of Wildlife for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. As director, she oversees the management, protection, and enhancement of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that call Maine home. Thank you so much for coming in today.

Judy Camuso:                      Thanks for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                          You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 336. Our guests have included Chellie and Hannah Pingree and Judy Camuso. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as doctorlisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are privileged that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                              Live Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our editorial producer is Brittany Cost. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #335: Robin Alden + Joanna and Phineas Sprague

Speaker 5:                               You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at Lovemaineradio.com.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      This is Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio show number 335, hearing for the first time on Sunday, February 18, 2018. Today’s guest are Robin Alden the former executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in Stonington, and Phineas and Joanna Sprague, the co-founder of Portland Yacht Services. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 5:                               Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio, Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingunn Jorgensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at artcollectormaine.com.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Robin Alden is the founding executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries. She retired at the end of December 2017 after 45 years of service in Maine’s fishing communities. Thanks for coming in.

Robin Alden:                         Great. Lovely to be here.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      We’re talking and the end of December 2017 has literally just happened. So you’re really still kind of working.

Robin Alden:                         I’m actually working this week mopping things up and taking care of loose ends. Yes.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      45 years, that’s amazing. I mean, you’re not a very old person, so that’s most of your adult life, I would guess.

Robin Alden:                         Well, actually I wasn’t really an adult when I started, because I was taking a year off from college and ended up in Stonington, and became captivated with the mission that I’ve pursued ever since.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Well, talk to me about that, because I know that following your passion has been really important to you and also, from what you tell me, to your husband, and you’ve encouraged your son to do the same thing. So what was your passion that got you to this place in Stonington?

Robin Alden:                         It was a series of just chance things that landed me in Stonington and the job I lined up. I was taking a year off from college. I was a history major and I didn’t really know. It was the early 70s, late 60s, and things were pretty tumultuous, and I didn’t really feel as if I knew what I wanted to study. And so, I took a year off to kind of settle myself. My father died when I was in high school and he was a very important person in my life. And so I was still going through that grieving. And so, I ended up in Stonington. The job I lined up didn’t come through. And so, I went down to the local paper, because what do you know how to do when you’re a sophomore in college? You know how to write and that’s about it.

So I rapidly became aware that freelance opportunities were covering the Chamber of Commerce, covering the school board, all land based, but the town ran on fishing. I started interviewing fishermen and that connected things in my past together. And so basically when I became aware of how much fishermen know about the local ecology, they know things about mud that nobody else knows there is to know, except for very, very specialized scientists, and they probably don’t know the things that fishermen know, because there have so many hours of observing the natural world. I also witnessed the frustration that fishermen felt that not being heard by scientists or policymakers and government. And my 1960s activism said, “Oh, we can fix this.”

And I spent the spring that year, I was off talking to fishermen. I just loved it. And to me, fishing seemed like the perfect business, because it connects … You have to take care of the earth. You have to take care of the ocean in order to be successful for the long term in making a living fishing, and you’re feeding people, and you’re keeping community economies going. I felt this if I had found the answer, and I wanted to fix this disconnect. And so the idea for starting a newspaper came to me sitting in a conference, when I saw the then newly appointed Commissioner of Marine Resources, Spencer Apollonio talking with a fisherman from the mid coast, and they were talking about shrimp.

And Spencer was a shrimp biologist, he knew a lot about shrimp. And this fisherman knew a lot about shrimp, and they could not hear each other. And finally the fisherman said, “I’ve got paint on my T-shirt. I bet you’ve never had pain on your T-shirt.” And actually knowing Spencer, that’s not true, but it was just this pure frustration. And I said to myself, “What we need is something that presents the world for each one of these two people living, to the other one in a non-threatening way.” I thought, “Oh, a weekly newspaper,” not knowing anything about publishing, “that shows up on the desk or the kitchen table, and just over time wears down those … bridges that gulf.” Long story short, I didn’t know anything about publishing. And I eventually got a monthly newspaper off the ground, which was called Maine Commercial Fisheries, and I called my mother who had been widowed a few years ago and said, “Your daughter’s dropping out of Yale, and she’s going to be starting a fisherman’s newspaper with no money.” And basically that’s what happened. And the newspaper’s still going as Commercial Fisheries News.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      How did your mother feel about that?

Robin Alden:                         I was 21 so I didn’t really register what she was feeling. Now, in retrospect as a mother, I think about that and think that it must have been pretty devastating for her. But she ended up very proud of what I’ve done.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Well, let me rephrase the question. If you don’t know how she felt, how did she respond? What did she say?

Robin Alden:                         I really don’t remember the conversations but I had $3000 that my grandmother had given me and it was mine and that’s what I did. And  [inaudible 00:07:33] not very successfully to try to make it happen during that next year. And the newspaper launched in September of ’73.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Well I think you’ve just kind of hit the nail on the head when you talk about when you’re 21 you don’t necessarily register because you know your parents say something and you think, “Well I’m an adult.” So you know, you do move in that direction. But the interesting thing about what you’re describing is that you were willing to do what needed to get done to make it happen, which doesn’t always happen at the age of 21.

Robin Alden:                         Yeah, I don’t know where that came from or how it happened, but that’s basically how I’ve done everything I’ve done, because it’s all been … You know, I eventually finished my degree at University of Maine in Economics. But all of the things I’ve done have been self-taught.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So where did that come from? Was this something that was modeled in your family? Was it something you learned in school? Where did you get the sense that you could figure out how to do what you needed to do?

Robin Alden:                         I had a wonderful education. I grew up in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area. I went to independent schools and I grew up in Cambridge when Kennedy was President, and many of the parents of people that I knew were working in the Kennedy administration, so it was a sense of if there’s a problem in the world, you need to step up and do something. And I had good tools, and not good tools in terms of knowing things, but critical thinking skills. And I think, I’ve always seen things as a whole. So you know some people are lumpers and some people are splitters.

I’m definitely a lumper and I see things in spectrums and the connections. And so I think that’s why I approach fisheries in Maine and the future of fisheries in Maine as a major set of things that need to take place in order for fisheries to be successful, and it’s everything from education to leadership to policy to really good science. The other thing, the other piece for this was, my father was an amateur naturalist, and had grown up on the water and worked on the water, and there’s a lot of … I mean if you’ve ever watched somebody sail small boats, they’re very, very attuned to what the wind’s doing, what the current’s doing, you name it, and that kind of fine scale observation is what fishermen do in order to make their living, plus it was on the water, so it was a very nice way for me to connect to a father that I’d lost.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      You spent summers in Maine and that was your original connection?

Robin Alden:                         Yeah. My father was a schoolteacher, and so he would take his little family to Maine while he got summer jobs working on the water. So he ran the yacht club in Prouts Neck. For a number of years we lived over the post office. And then later he was part of the founding of Hurricane Island Outward Bound School and he did both the ecology and also ran the waterfront there. But he died very early in Hurricane’s history.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So that must have been a very formative time for you to lose your father so suddenly in high school.

Robin Alden:                         Very much so. Yeah.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      What I’m enjoying about this story is that essentially you saw that two different people representing two different groups had valuable information that they could each share, but somehow were not able to interface on, and so often that seems to be the problem, that it’s not that one group knows more than the other group, they just know differently, and then somehow there’s a translation issue. And so that’s what I’m really enjoying about this conversation is that you understood the translation issue and you tried to find a way to break that down.

Robin Alden:                         One of my favorite examples of this is actually with my husband who is a lifelong fisherman. He grew up in Vinalhaven and he fished his whole career, except for when he went to the University of Maine and ended up with a Master’s in Biochemistry, then decided that he wanted to go back fishing but he needed to get a job while he got reestablished, so he taught high school for a period of time, and then went back fishing, and as he came ashore he started to track historical ground fish location. Cod and haddock and pollack and flounders are ground fish, they feed on the bottom of the ocean. And that was his favorite fishery.

He fished every fishery that Maine fishermen fish, and so in the winter he started mapping historical accounts that talked about where fishermen in Maine caught fish on the grounds that he knew, and he called me in one night really excited. “Come and look.” And he had seen a pattern in his mapping and I went in and looked at the screen and it looked like a bowl of spaghetti to me. I could not see any pattern. And what was going on was that in his head, he had both the scientific rigor to map according to criteria three, observations and all kinds of things.

And the technical expertise to do that, GIS mapping and he knew the bottom of the Gulf of Maine. He knew that was a gully there. He knew there was a boulder over here, and he was seeing something that I couldn’t see. And so he could see the pattern. And that’s exactly what my life’s work been trying to do is pull those things together, because what we’ve learned about marine ecology in the last 40 years is that there is much more local stock structure and local behavior and learned behavior in fish populations than we ever thought. The basic fisheries’ management has always been based on, “Well, on average, there’s fish in the ocean and if you figure out how many are out there you can figure out how many you should take and then you’ll live happily ever after.” And it’s not that simple. So this local ecological knowledge is much more important and it’s even more important now because of climate change.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Explore that a little bit more for me.

Robin Alden:                         If you’re taking a mathematical approach to the ocean and saying, basically you just need to know how many fish are out there, we can’t see them, it’s so bothersome. So we’ll do sampling and then we’ll build models and we’ll be pretty good. And we are pretty good at that. We’re not perfect, but we’re pretty good. The underlying assumptions of that approach to fisheries is that it’s basically a static system. We know it’s dynamic and there’s things built into the model to be able to show that, but it’s fundamentally clunky. It’s not really adaptive. Climate change isn’t something that happens at a big scale. It happens at a lot of small scales, so the currents may change and one bay may change a lot. But outside that bay it may not change or this year or in this decade.

So the fishermen who spend more hours on the ocean than any research cruise entity can ever hope to have the money to do, they are the first line observers, and if their observations are actually funneled into a process of science that has figured out how to accept this type of observation, and one of the questions you asked me before I came in here was, “What’s changed?” When I published, I left the newspaper for a while in the mid 70s, and I was working for the Sea Grant Program at the University of Maine, and as part of that, we purchased a page in Commercial Fisheries News, and I ran a newsletter there, and in one of those articles I said, “Fishermen’s observations are really good basis for scientific hypothesis.”

You don’t have to accept them as truth but there are a great set, they provide really good questions that can produce better science, more in-depth perceptions than you would get if you were sitting in your ivory tower asking questions. The federal agency scientific lab the leader of it went to Washington to terminate my funding.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Wow. That’s … And you were just a college student.

Robin Alden:                         I was at that point back in school working half time and in my mid 20s. Yeah. And luckily, the vice president for research, a famous guy in the University of Maine, Fred Hutchinson who eventually came back and was the president, interviewed me and talked me through, and he said this is within academic freedom and we’ll support you.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Why do you think there was such a strong response?

Robin Alden:                         I was threatening the established … Back then there was no collaborative research. Basically, people’s approach to fisherman’s knowledge was I’d be extremely surprised if that were true. You know, they assumed that there was … it was an ‘us and them’, and fishermen are always trying to get more, and what I said when I started the paper and it’s true today is I’ve been trying to give voice to all the fishermen who sit in the coffee shop and say, “Well, what they ought to do is,” and they’re not talking about. Sure, every fisherman’s aggressive. Not every fishermen, but humans are greedy.

They want to get more, whatever. But there is this underlying conservation and observer theme in most fishermen and certainly in some fishermen and those are the people who were really thinking about, “I want my grandchildren to be able to have this lifestyle. I’m in the best business that there’s ever been, and I want to make sure that we restrain ourselves, because we don’t necessarily always make the right decisions. And I want to contribute my observations, and will somebody listen to me?”

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      As we’ve been talking, it has reminded me of the struggle that, just for example, health care providers have where there is the scientific knowledge, which is proven by numbers. And then there is the clinical knowledge, which you know, as a doctor for you know more than two decades now, there’s stuff that I have learned by being on the ground, by sitting with patients over and over and over again. But that’s not the stuff that comes down from the scientific bodies. And yet, both are very valuable and I think a lot of doctors feel as if we don’t have a voice in patient care these days.

Robin Alden:                         That’s really interesting, because you also are an increasingly regulated industry where a lot of what you’re able to get paid for, or the patients are able to get paid for whatever, it has to be based on all of those scientific studies and doesn’t readily lend itself to-

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Which is not unlike fisheries-

Robin Alden:                         Very similar. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, but you’re right and it’s the same kind of fine observation, fine scale observation.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So do you think that this is an evolving change that we are seeing?

Robin Alden:                         I actually think that fisheries’ management is at a pivot point right now because of the acknowledgement of climate change and that is … First of all, fisheries is always about policy because it’s a public resource. So you always have government involved, whether it’s the town managing their claims or their alewives or the state or the federal agency, and the federal agency regulates the outside three, and the state inside three, but there’s lots of collaborative interagency connections that make all of that work. So you always have to have government, because otherwise there’s no form of restraint. And that’s been true …

I mean, throughout human history, there have been rules or taboos that have tried to allow humans to live within the bounty that the earth provides. Government science is in a terrible position all the time because if they make the wrong decision, one way they’re sued by the environmentalists if they make the wrong decision, the other way, the industry sues them and in fact, often if they just make any decision, they get attacked from both sides.

It’s a very defensive conservative cautious process, and I think this is again health care is a good analogy, probably in the same situation. So if you’re looking at the history of science, this changes very slowly, and most of fisheries science has been federal for many years because that’s the only group that’s had the incentive to have money for fisheries science. Increasingly, there is academic science going on as well.

And that’s a big change that part of where Maine has led the way and in some ways on this. But there hasn’t been as much challenge and debate with the science that affects regulation, that affects fishermen. And so where there may be a lot of recognition, let’s say, about this fine scale population structure that exists not just for codfish in the Gulf of Maine, but for scallops in the Gulf of Maine, whoever thought that in one small 14 square mile Bay in Maine, the scallops are genetically different from the scallops outside there, or that in the middle of the Pacific, a reef fish that’s an inch long homes not just to the reef where they were hatched from, but to the specific portion of the reef. There’s a lot of complexity that government science or the policy hasn’t caught up to be able to figure out.

And I think now that we’re facing that we’ve got a dynamic situation, we’re going to have to figure out what’s the political structure, what’s the decision making structure that’s going to allow us to adapt faster. And I think that where I’ve been interested in and where I’ve been greatly affected by Jim Wilson, who is a professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University Maine. He’s an economist, but he’s been very involved in both sort of the interface between ecology and fisheries policy.

And he’s been looking at computer complex adaptive systems theory basically. And what you do when you have what you call a wicked problem or a very complex problem, is you set up feedback loops, rapid feedback loops so that you’re learning and you do this in a hierarchical way, because there are some things that matter at the very fine scale, local, and there are some things that have to be done at a bay or gulf or ocean wide scale.

And so for me the political science fascination right now is how do you set up systems that human beings can live within that create this information loop and that’s adaptive decision making that make smart decisions going forward? And I think, there are many people thinking about this now and although the laws still lock us into the old way of doing things, at the federal level, I think at the state level there’s much more room for innovation. And I think, some of the things that we’ve been involved with recently are going to be contributing to the federal agency being able to experiment a little bit.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Like what?

Robin Alden:                         As you mentioned, I’m just in the process of retiring right now. And one of the things that I’m really pleased to have been able to do before I left was to develop an agreement with the National Fisheries Service and the State of Maine and the organization that I led until just now, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, to develop the science that would allow an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries in the eastern Maine area. And it isn’t even fully … We don’t even know what this means yet. But the idea is two agencies and our organization have agreed to work to say, “How would we do this?”

And it’s a science agreement and it will take a number of years to figure this out, but we’ll learn by doing, and it’s building on the scallop co-management process that Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries was instrumental in helping get going in the state of Maine with the Department of Marine Resources. It will build on other types of local citizen science that’s going on at the clam level or the alewife level, and we’ll just see where it leads. But it gives me incentive for Coastal Fisheries and Paul Anderson who’s the new executive director a wonderful focus for the next era.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      I was thinking about the interview I did with Abigail Carroll who is an oyster farmer, I guess she calls herself, and her mentioning that different oysters in exactly the same location can have different characteristics based on how far down in the water they are. When you were talking about these microscopic environmental changes that impact an organism, I was thinking how interesting it is that we live in a time that we now can see these things, and we’re just on the cusp of being able to do something with this information.

Robin Alden:                         And that’s what they mean about the basis for a hypothesis or the basis for a business decision, because there are all these things. We can’t see currents, we can’t see plankton distribution. These things are invisible. Some are too big for us to see, some are too small for us to see. We see the indicators, which are the oysters at the bottom are growing differently than the oysters in the middle, than the top. And as the currents change with temperature changes, we’re going to have different plankton availability in different places at different depths. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Well, I appreciate the 45 years of service that you have given to Maine’s fishing communities and also the time you’ve taken to come up here. I guess down here from where you live in Stonington. I’ve been speaking with Robin Alden who was the founding executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, who retired at the end of December 2017. But I suspect it’s not the last we will hear from you.

Robin Alden:                         Thank you very much. A privilege to be able to do this.

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Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Phineas and Joanna Sprague are the co-founders of Portland Yacht Services. Thanks for coming in today. I think you like to be called Finn, is that right?

Phineas Sprague:                That’s right.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Okay. Nice to have you.

Joanna Sprague:                  Thank you very much.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      I’m really intrigued by all the work that you have put into Portland’s waterfront and this is something that you’ve been doing for many years. You’ve been married for 42 years that we decided that was how long ago.

Joanna Sprague:                  Yeah. Long time.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      And you’ve always been joined by the water.

Joanna Sprague:                  Yes. In fact, when we first came back from sailing, it was hard to be more than 72 feet apart.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Because you’re used to being-

Phineas Sprague:                72 feet apart, right, as far apart as we got.

Joanna Sprague:                  For many years.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      You met in Florida, where you were working as a nurse, Joanna-

Joanna Sprague:                  That’s correct.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      And Finn, you were sailing around the world.

Phineas Sprague:                I was. I had the idea that we could sail around the world in 18 months. And it didn’t work out that way. But we did meet in Florida.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      And you also got married on board your vessel-

Phineas Sprague:                Right.

Joanna Sprague:                  In Bali.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      In Bali.

Joanna Sprague:                  And all of your family was there, and just my parents and it was Christmas.

Phineas Sprague:                Christmas Day.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      That’s very romantic.

Joanna Sprague:                  It’s romantic. It was part of what we sort of said, “Come visit us at Christmas time.” It wasn’t easy to find a minister. We weren’t sure he was going to show up. And he did. So we then brought out … Did have a ring? Yes we did have a ring. So we did get married, but it was a surprise to everybody.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Joanna, your background was in you said outboarding.

Joanna Sprague:                  Well, my parents had a little marina and camp grounds in Canada, and I grew up on the water. I delivered papers and then it shut down in the winter we would go to Florida, and they come back up and opened it up. So I grew up working in a little store.

Phineas Sprague:                OMC dealer.

Joanna Sprague:                  My dad gave us all of his old manuals and he even brought a motor to us one time on a folding motor, which was one of the first ones ever, ever. Then I went to nursing school, so I had a nursing background getting on the boat.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So I guess, what I wonder is, weren’t you taking kind of an enormous leap of faith by getting on that boat that first time 42 years ago with this man that you had just met?

Joanna Sprague:                  You’re right, because the boat was already in Panama at the time, and Finn called and asked if I’d help him get the boat across the Pacific. And I said, sure.

Phineas Sprague:                Where are the Marquesas?

Joanna Sprague:                  Got off the phone, had to look it up on a map. I had no idea where the Marquesas we’re, that’s near Tahiti but I never got off. Four years, later we sailed back into Portland.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So do you think it actually strengthened your marriage, the fact that you spent all that time together in a pretty small-

Phineas Sprague:                We’ve had each other’s backs. In most difficult circumstances.

Joanna Sprague:                  Absolutely. You know there’s no question that as I said, we weren’t ready to be apart when we came back sailing around the world, and that was the hardest part for me to go off every day and go to a job and not seeing him for eight hours. It was very different than our life together for the first four-five years was we were always together and we’ve always been on a boat. You also know who’s in charge, and in a house it’s a little different.

Phineas Sprague:                We’ve had an agreement since we were married and that is that she did all the little decisions and I did all the big ones, and after 42 years there’ve really been no big decisions, so any time I thought that was a big decision, I got really big trouble for it.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So it just sounds like you’re doing all the decisions, Joanna.

Joanna Sprague:                  No, I’ve had to relinquish-

Phineas Sprague:                She’s the admiral. I look at the horizon and she looks at my feet to make sure that I don’t trip.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      You complement each other well.

Joanna Sprague:                  We’ve been at it a long time. We know who’s better at other things, so we let each other take off the walls. But those first few years of being married, we weren’t apart.

Phineas Sprague:                And it was also dangerous. You know we were in those situations-

Joanna Sprague:                  That’s the 70s.

Phineas Sprague:                In the 70s in Indonesia and Red Sea and places that … We were right off Timor when that was invaded. So and then we got in the cyclone and then you know we got some pretty bad storms and you know-

Joanna Sprague:                  We were one of the first cruising boats to go through the Suez Canal after it reopened. And it was frightening. Lots of stories of guns-

Phineas Sprague:                People couldn’t comprehend a yacht. Even the concept of you know, “Are you sailing around the world, because why? What are you doing? We’re having a hard enough time living and you have the resources to do what?”

Joanna Sprague:                  Would I do it again? No. I mean I think the world is a lot scarier now. I wouldn’t want to be at any of these places. I mean you know we get that question all the time, and there’s too much unrest, there’s too much dislike out there.

Phineas Sprague:                I slept with a pistol under my pillow all the way up the Red Sea and not knowing what I would do if I had to use it. You know, boats were machine gunned. And I think it was a young person’s concept that you could live forever.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      How old were you?

Joanna Sprague:                  We were in our 20s when we were doing this. Back in ’77.

Phineas Sprague:                ’77.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      And what did your families think of this voyage around the world?

Joanna Sprague:                  As I said, I’m the youngest in my family so my mom was okay. They came to visit us a few times. Same with your family. I think you had always talked about sailing around the world, as a kid.

Phineas Sprague:                Well I was always independent and you know my parents … I guess, they’d probably be put in jail for what they let me do as a child. You know they let me go out and I was allergic to everything that was on the farm. So at age six I was out rolling a boat around in Cape Elizabeth offshore in a southwest breeze, so my eyes would get all clouded up with … And then I ended up all by myself doing mapping for the main geological survey down the coal mines in West Virginia. We basically figured that the first pancake was the one that you always threw out, so it would be okay. There was a bunch of us. We were six of us.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      You mean you were the oldest child?

Phineas Sprague:                Yeah.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      So you were the first pancake?

Phineas Sprague:                Right. But the experience that they allowed me to do made me very independent. And I think that they trusted me but they would never allow more than three other kids on the boat at any one time.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Just in case something bad happened.

Phineas Sprague:                Right. And you know it was dangerous.

Joanna Sprague:                  We didn’t have the communications that we have now on boats. We had a ham radio and we had a single sideband that-

Phineas Sprague:                Didn’t work.

Joanna Sprague:                  That was one of the harder things for all of us was not having that communication. And if you talk to our parents, it was a big deal when we did make the phone calls.

Phineas Sprague:                Right.

Joanna Sprague:                  We tried to call them when we get into a port so they knew where we were.

Phineas Sprague:                There were great ham radio operators in Southport, London-

Joanna Sprague:                  That was a whole different level.

Phineas Sprague:                That would help us to communicate. You know nowadays you know you can basically with the radio and phones and all of this stuff, you have instant gratification from anywhere in the world, whereas when we were sailing, we were the last, I call it classic boat that used celestial navigation. And celestial teaches you to be very cautious. And you know there can be many days when you don’t have a good fix, and it can be quite dangerous when you’re making approaches to land. So things have changed. A lot of people that don’t have the maritime skills are able to get out on the water and go great distances now.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Celestial navigation is by the stars, so not having a good fix is, maybe you can’t see the stars well?

Phineas Sprague:                You can’t see the stars and you’re not able to locate your position on the nautical chart with any accuracy. So you’re approaching a coast or something in this storm, what you usually do is try to make contact with a lighthouse or something that flashes 20 miles off so if you’re 20 miles off course, you can see the light and then you can readjust and go on with a different form of navigation, but the real danger is just that period when you’re approaching near shallow water.

Joanna Sprague:                  You also use the sun and the moon. You can use all.

Phineas Sprague:                Planets and planet moons, jet contrails you know whatever tool that you have.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      Tell me about the Portland Yacht Services. Tell me about how this came to be.

Phineas Sprague:                Well when we got back, it turned out that my grandfather Thomas’s company that he sold, which is a Portland company was for sale, and United Industrial Syndicate owned it and they had built this machine that reached out and grabbed people. So it was a huge liability. So they had to shut the company down. And so because my family’s been in the energy business for years in the coal mines and my grandfather sold it, we were looking for something positive to do and the Portland Company was building nuclear power plant components at the time and it had actually built the first commercial nuclear power plant in New England, Yankee Rowe, that reactor. And so my parents decided that they wanted to acquire the property and build nuclear power plant components.

And so because I was a geologist and had studied petrology and all of these things, it fit that I was working in operations. And after Three Mile Island, the whole industry shut down in the United States, and the Portland Engineering Company went out of business.

Joanna Sprague:                  That was the name of it.

Phineas Sprague:                And I had seen so many decisions that I didn’t understand and couldn’t articulate reasons for. I went back to school, went to Northeastern and got an MBA and was sort of starving to death. And so somebody in the Yacht Club asked me to put a fender on a Boston Whaler in my basement. And so I did that and then a person that I’ve known for years, Eddie Rowe was running the yacht club to do the maintenance in the yacht club had a heart attack, and they said, “Will you take it over?” and I’m going, “Well, you know, it’s food, right?” And so I started to do that.

Joanna Sprague:                  Out of our house.

Phineas Sprague:                Out of our house while I was getting my MBA and I got asked to go work for General Dynamics in Quincy to work to the quality assurance for the submarines. And I went down there and decided that none of these people were like Bath Iron Works and they didn’t understand, they weren’t doing good quality work. And they would eat the young person alive.

Joanna Sprague:                  Plus we didn’t want to move.

Phineas Sprague:                And we couldn’t move. We didn’t want to move.

Joanna Sprague:                  We have a lovely spot where we live, where we brought up our kids, and it’s one of the questions, totally, I’d stay there forever and we didn’t want to leave Maine.

Phineas Sprague:                So I was working on boats at the Yacht Club and somebody asked me to rebuild a boat. You know I started to move into an old potato barn, in Cape Elizabeth and you know we were working on people’s boats and came to the attention of the town zoning person and they found out, they said that it was not appropriate to build boats and work on boats in a barn on a salt water farm. And so we had to scoot into an empty building in Portland, which is the Portland Company and moved overnight out of there, and then later went back in and changed the zoning, but it was too late for us.

Joanna Sprague:                  When we moved to 58 Fore, we were only in a couple of the buildings. Most of them were leased at that point-

Phineas Sprague:                Or abandoned.

Joanna Sprague:                  Or abandoned, and Portland Yacht Services came out of that.

Phineas Sprague:                We actually didn’t have access to the water at that point.

Joanna Sprague:                  And within five years was the beginning of a little… and then choo-choo train came. And Finn was the guy that brought that here and hauled it down.

Phineas Sprague:                Biddeford, Ashley and a whole bunch of other people were-

Joanna Sprague:                  Kind of home. And that’s when you started to get the rights across.

Phineas Sprague:                I kept getting diverted by nonprofit activities. You know the school, I was on the board there and got that rebuilt and up with Jim Stevenson and-

Joanna Sprague:                  Lightship-

Phineas Sprague:                Nantucket Lightship and Spring Point Museum-

Joanna Sprague:                  But that’s all been coming out of the 58 Fore Portland Yacht Services, and as our tenants moved out, we moved into the buildings.

Phineas Sprague:                No sewer there. It was pumping the raw sewage overboard for years and you couldn’t lease any property there until you put the new pumping station and connected all the heads, the place has fallen apart round our ears. This was quite a struggle.

Joanna Sprague:                  And 31 years ago, we asked about doing a little boat show and the little boat show has a dozen boat builders from Maine just stand at a table. No boats.

Phineas Sprague:                Boat builders and [inaudible 00:47:37] Wilson a sailmaker from Boothbay.

Joanna Sprague:                  These are our friends.

Phineas Sprague:                David Nutt and Dragonworks-

Joanna Sprague:                  Within four years we had moved close to 60 exhibitors with boats and we started to utilize the space and that was just one weekend and the boat building industry changed. People came just to meet the boat builders, which many of these guys wouldn’t step foot outside of their shop let alone the state. So it was really an opportunity for that industry to get the spotlight on. That was another big change for us to utilize the buildings but the boat yard continued to grow.

Phineas Sprague:                Right and we got into a situation where we had to move the boats all outside in order to invite our competitors in to a boat show.

Joanna Sprague:                  It grew.

Phineas Sprague:                It grew and grew until at one point we had 240 exhibitors and every single niche and cranny was filled with the boat.

Joanna Sprague:                  Outside and inside and we had boats on docks in March. Unusual. And then we also-

Phineas Sprague:                The thing is that Joanna would run … She would do all the work to set the boat show up all year long, put everything out, get everything organized, get the layout of the place going until like a week before the boat show, and everybody else is working on boats and then suddenly it was like the starting gun would go off, we drop all of our tools, we’d move all the boats outside, we threw a party for three days with our friends in the boating industry. And then everything will go back into the building and we go work on boats again. So it was almost a month that we would spend not working with the whole organization and then-

Joanna Sprague:                  And we worked diligently with the neighborhood, because that neighborhood wasn’t used to it, and tons of people would come from away. And we had-

Phineas Sprague:                We were imposing on them, right. So we had to be really careful. You know and it was hard because you get people that are really focused in coming to this boat show and they don’t really care where they park and they don’t really care that they’ve gone up under the grass and somebody’s lawn-

Joanna Sprague:                  And it’s March.

Phineas Sprague:                And it’s March, so it’s mud season so you know it’s so difficult thing.

Joanna Sprague:                  We’ve put the flower show. We did that for 17 years.

Phineas Sprague:                It was Joanna’s love. You know, I will work in the garden when I can’t stand up in the boat.

Joanna Sprague:                  Is was a whole different crowd of people too, you know boats, artists. They’re rough around the edges. The green industry is a little different, but it was something we worked on. It was something that the Junior League had come to us but they wanted the buildings for a month. We couldn’t shut down our business for a month. We could shut down for a week and especially if we had two shows back to back, that worked, so we did that for a long time.

Phineas Sprague:                Kearneys, we call ourselves Kearneys for two weeks. But it was you know you didn’t do it enough so you became jaded, and you also were because it’s been going on for 30 or more years. The people that come into the show as exhibitors have become close friends.

Joanna Sprague:                  And we’ve seen a whole new generation, their children are taking over their businesses or their children are doing other things in the marine industry, just like our kids. It’s been really a piece that we work at also, it’s just education. We’re finding that the boat building industry needs to keep promoting themselves. You’re going to lose the art of building with wood. And we worked hard at the whole idea of education, where to get those kids. We work hard, trying to find kids-

Phineas Sprague:                Helped start the Marine Systems Program. And we find that the real issue is to start with a small boat, and then basically have the opportunity to look at the marine industry as a possible career. And you know people don’t remember that World War II was carnage, and Maine supplied a lot of Merchant Marine that never came back. And the mothers would tell their kids, “I don’t want you to go out in a boat with your uncle. I want you to go work in a mill.” So many of the towns around Maine basically if you go look at them, the anchorage is full of boats from away, and the kids are throwing rocks in the water because they really know that they have an attachment to it, and yet they don’t know how to get out onto it. And so you know, it’s been one of the things that we’ve been trying to do is to reconnect the young people in Maine with a place that you don’t have to mow.

Joanna Sprague:                  That’s where Sail Maine came in very early on. He’d with him for years, because the kids from the hill would come down-

Phineas Sprague:                And throw rocks at the windows at the building-

Joanna Sprague:                  We got to figure out what to do with these kids. They we’re bored. They want to be on water, they don’t know how, until they started tiny little boat building projects.

Phineas Sprague:                We work with the University of Southern Maine and we work with the city of Portland, the parks and rec, and a whole bunch of great people.

Joanna Sprague:                  And now we have worldwide sailors, nationally known sailors.

Phineas Sprague:                We got some of the finest sailors in the world coming out of Portland, Maine and that’s basically because we changed the model a little bit. All of the high schools sail together. So when I was a child, I would sail and there’d be one other person in the whole group that would challenge you. And now there’s probably six or eight or 10 high schools that are also playing excellent sailors and they all challenge themselves, so they end up being world class sailors, because that’s the model, that’s really different. My high school has always attracted great sailors from say Bermuda and other places in the world to sail, but even still, it’s only two or three people that are really good and they don’t have the opportunity to tune themselves up, whereas this program is really tuning the kids up to be excellent sailors.

Joanna Sprague:                  And some of the kids go on to Maine Maritime Academy.

Phineas Sprague:                Maine Maritime and Landing Boat School.

Joanna Sprague:                  Huge support funneling them, getting kids into that school-

Phineas Sprague:                Universities.

Joanna Sprague:                  Good jobs-

Phineas Sprague:                Further in the marine sciences and so that you know you can’t sort of take someone who’s 18 and suddenly think that they’re going to have boat sense and you know they are all thumbs and it takes a long time to get that original boat sense. So you really in my view, have to start in eight to 14, if not sooner in a very small tippy boat.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      I hope that people have been listening will be intrigued enough to go down and take a look at the work that you’ve done down at Portland Yacht Services. I’ve been speaking with Phineas and Joanna Sprague who are the co-founders of Portland Yacht Services. You’ve done a lot of good work for our city so I really appreciate it, and for the state of Maine. Thank you and thank you for coming in today.

Joanna Sprague:                  Thank you.

Phineas Sprague:                You’re welcome.

Dr.Lisa Belisle:                      You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio show number 335. Our guests have included Robin Alden and Phineas and Joanna Sprague. For more information on our guests and extended interviews visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. Free preview of each week show. Sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We’re privileged that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a good bountiful life.

Speaker 5:                               Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery, and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our Editorial Producer is Brittany Cost. Our Assistant Producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our Community Development Manager is Casey Lovejoy, and our Executive Producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemaineradio.com.

Speaker 6:                               So good. How can you paint a picture of a person who is already a work of art? Who’ll be the last and surely not the first one. Couldn’t choose a perfect place to start.

I’ve seen greener pastures. I’ve been to the moon. I wish I’d never asked her if she missed me too.

If she were dollars she would be a billion. If she were water she would fill the sea. If she were taller she could crush a building. If she were honey I would be her bee.

I’ve seen greener pastures. I’ve been to the moon. I wish I’d never asked her if she missed me too.

So all the black and white that filled these pages have run together into so much gray. Even though I don’t know how to read it, I just can’t seem to put this book away.

‘Cuz I’ve seen greener pastures. I’ve been to the moon. I wish I’d never asked her if she missed me too.

‘Cuz I’ve seen greener pastures. I’ve been to the moon-

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #334: Joseph K. Loughlin and Kate Clark Flora + Nancy Thompson

You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at Lovemaineradio.com.

Dr. Lisa B:                                This Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 334. Airing for the first time on Sunday, February 11th, 2018. Today’s guests are Joseph K. Loughlin, the former Assistant Chief of Police for the city of Portland. He and mystery and crime author, Kate Clark Flora co-wrote the book Shots Fired. Our next guest is former Center for Grieving Children President of the Board, Nancy Thompson who lost her middle child, Timmy, to suicide at the age of 18. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                               Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of the contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space including Ingunn Jorgensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details, please visit our website at Artcollectormaine.com.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Joseph K. Loughlin is the former Assistant Chief of Police for the city of Portland and a published author. Kate Clark Flora is a mystery and crime author who has published 18 books. She and Loughlin recently co-wrote the second book, Shots Fired, which came out this past October. Thanks for coming in today.

Joseph K. L:                            Thank you.

Kate Clark F:                           Thanks for having us.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You’re okay if I call you, Joe?

Joseph K. L:                            Sure.

Dr. Lisa B:                                All right. I’d like to start with reading a quote that’s towards the end of your book, Shots Fired and this was in an address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system.” These words were echoed by Dallas Police Chief, David Brown, speaking at the memorial for the officers assassinated in Dallas, “Every societal failure, we put off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas, we got a loose dog problem, let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, give it to the cops. Policing was never meant to solve all of these problems.” The first quote, “Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system,” was by Former President Barrack Obama. That’s a very big statement to have in your book.

Joseph K. L:                            It is a big statement and it rings true because, actually, 70% of the time that officers spend on the street is negotiating from one thorny situation to the next and dealing with all of our societal ills that are left at the doorstep. Like the Chief of Dallas said, whatever it is, mentally ill, drugged, deranged, we’re dealing with that all the time. Police spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with those types of issues and often with no good answers. Where do you bring this person?

This is closed, how do I take care of this mom or these kids that have been taken away from the family and all those things. For me, as a police officer who spent 30 years in the business, to watch this country scapegoat the police as the problem was the motivating factor for me to write this book of police officers with Kate in the worst possible situation as deadly force which, by the way, nobody wants to be involved in. I think the rhetoric and the pervasiveness and understandings have been pushed out over and over again and have confused our society. Back to what you just expressed and what the President have expressed is true and we often scapegoat the police for the broader societal ills.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Kate, what was it like for you to work on a project that can be very grim at times?

Kate Clark F:                           Well, it’s my fourth grim project. Actually, I think it’s a really interesting question and one that people ask me a lot. Between writing fictional police and real police, I spend about 15 years now spending time with police officers talking about homicides but particularly talking about their lives, talking about the impact of the job.

Part of that came out of my early friendship with Joe, we’ve been friends for about 20 years. I think that I stand in the feet of the civilian, I’m the person who asks the question, “Why this? Why that?” Then I have, overtime, evolved into becoming the person who gives voice to something that a lot of police officers don’t have an opportunity to do. In our collaborations, of course, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Dr. Lisa B:                                It is an interesting time to be a police officer because it seems as though we are, in some ways, doing to police officers what we did to people returning from Vietnam.

Joseph K. L:                            I can’t believe you said that.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You can’t believe I said that?

Joseph K. L:                            No, because I’ve been expressing that. What’s happening to police in this country and what we need to know and recognize is that people today are very, very different from the ’60s and ’70s. The training, the policy procedures that we have now, the scrutiny that’s on, the individuals and the organization is intense and pronounced. Every officer out there knows that he or she could be front page news and painted in a terrible picture the next day.

I know I’m digressing but it’s the notion that any police officer wants to be involved in a deadly force incident is far, far from the reality and from the truth. You expressed that perfectly and I remember saying that when I was motivated to do this work and had to bring Kate in because it was so massive and I had so many officers I talked to.

I was like what’s happening to the police in this country today is very similar to what happened to our soldiers and military personnel that came back from the Vietnam War. Think about that, it was a horrible time in our country and people were throwing paint on them, urine and they couldn’t wear their uniforms and imputing everyone as this one big entity of a problem.

10 years later, we all come together and say, “Well, we’re sorry. We didn’t realize what really happened.” Well, too late, the damage is done. The damages have been done to the profession of police in this country and we are suffering consequences now. I can go into that but that’s a great statement because I’ve been saying that from the inception, from the thought of this book.

Dr. Lisa B:                                I was struck by how messy these situations are. You said this repeatedly in the book, that what most of us think of is what we see on television and that is here’s a brightly lit space, here’s a clean shot, the officer can fire at a person’s arm and that’s enough to disable him. What I’m reading about is officers who are falling downstairs and to darkened basements where maybe there’s bomb-making materials, they don’t have a flashlight, they don’t know whether the person’s on drugs. In one particular case, somebody’s being stabbed so people are fearing for their lives. When you’re in that situation, it’s not that different than being in a war time situation where you’re just trying to make the best decision that you can. It’s not probably going to be perfect and it’s going to impact you for a long time.

Kate Clark F:                           I think that’s one of the reasons that in some of these incidents, we’ve included the voices of multiple officers so that you can actually see that the officer on the left-hand side of the car who’s trying to get the driver out and the guy on the right who’s got a gun in his face and the guy in the rear who’s trying to figure out what role he can play in how to disable the bad guy. All of their precessions are going to be radically different because of where they’re standing and the public doesn’t understand that.

Joseph K. L:                            Well, you really captured a lot in the way you just expressed it. It’s not TV, it’s not the movies, these things don’t occur on sterile environments, they don’t defy the laws of physics. Usually, it’s in a flash or a blink of an eye when you’re talking to someone like we’re engaging right now, then all of a sudden, someone’s trying to kill you or someone from behind you is trying to get you.

It’s so unpredictable and every case is unique. It happens in cold weather, hot weather, different terrains, dark alleys, stairwells, down in the basements. It’s nothing like what’s presented on TV but the general population is educated and trained by Hollywood TV and the movies. Self included until I became a police officer which I expressed in the book a little bit as well.

I was a very liberal minded college student, I had no inclination of being a police officer by any stretch and that’s where life took me. You’ll learn the realities of things, but all cops will tell you that the general public has no idea what we really do on a day-to-day basis and how the day is punctuated by violence, whether it’s domestic or someone doing robbery or what’s illustrated in the book.

You really captured exactly what I believe society believes. Why not wing him, shoot him in the leg, it doesn’t happen in a clean and sterile environment like this room. Even at the range, at the firing range where we train, if I were to move my hand in a motion like this, good luck trying to hit it, it’s not that slow. In the dynamics that are rapidly evolving in these circumstances, people don’t stand still and present themselves.

There’s no spiffy dialogue before something happens, it happens in an instant and that’s illustrated in the book. That’s what we’re trying to show and the reason we picked deadly force, or I picked it, I had a whole another book going before this about police work, is when I saw the country convulsing into this, in my view, craziness. I just felt I have to do something about this and educate the public. People say it’s good to hear the other side.

There are no sides. The police and the public and the public and the police, we got to bring our society together. We don’t excuse bad cops, poor tactics, horrible situations, terrible mistakes that happen in war and then these violent circumstances but by and large, it’s a very, very small percentage that occurs in the country. Less than 5% of officers ever use their weapon, I never had to use my weapon in my whole 30 year career and that would be the norm for most police officers. People watch TV and Don Johnson in Miami Vice or whatever, going way back, killed 150 people. It’s something absurd and that’s what people think.

Dr. Lisa B:                                I had a hard time reading this book, not because it’s a hard read but because it’s so tragic. It’s people on both sides that are being impacted, really, for the rest of their lives and their families. It’s whether you’re somebody who’s high on drugs or just committed a crime and you’ve been shot and killed and now, you leave your children behind or you’re the officer who shot the person or you’re the officer that got shot in the face or you’re the officer who died, leaving children behind. Everybody is a casualty when it comes to a shot being fired it seems.

Joseph K. L:                            We should turn this over to her, this is great.

Kate Clark F:                           Yeah, [crosstalk 00:11:53]. You can just go ahead and talk about this book and then we’ll go write another one. Really, I think one of the things that people never really understand, particularly if you’re educated by media, is the ripples. One of the things that’s in the book that people don’t really think about is the officer’s family.

The officer is on the front page of the paper with the immediate rush to judgment and then the officer’s children go to school, the officer’s wife goes to work or to the supermarket and everybody has an assumption about what that person did which is not founded in fact. There’s implications for the victim, for the person who was shot, the subject and there’s implications for the officer. There’s implications for the department and for the families but that is all above the community because as Joe says, cops are not them. They are us.

Dr. Lisa B:                                That’s really important. This idea that these are, you’re calling them guardians within the book, that they are the people who are choosing to put their lives on the line and the families are choosing to be part of this as well. They can take up to three years or maybe the longer for investigation to figure out whether is it a bad cop situation, is it truly the fault of the criminal, what’s going on. By that time, a lot of people have lost interest. We only heard what we first heard and nobody ever comes back and says, “Oh, I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

Joseph K. L:                            We illustrated that throughout the work and in a deadly force, as I’ve said, there are no good outcomes. Not for the officer, not for the family members of the deceased, not for the community, not for anybody involved in the peripheral, the organization goes through a lot and there’s a disconnect between the individual who’s involved like, “Hey, I don’t want to be involved in this,” and they get ostracized to some degree.

It depends upon the network and the professionals in each police department, but there are no good outcomes in these. It’s piercingly painful events and the worst possible situations. There’s a lot of ripples, as you said, in so many ways. They don’t walk way unscathed and they’re never the same again.

In fact, I have several officers in the book and I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of officers that just, “I don’t want anything to do with this profession anymore. I didn’t sign-up for this. I wish it never happened.” Those are the common denominators. Nationwide, many police leave the profession as soon as they’re involved in this and some never come out of it.

In fact, I did a bunch of interviews where the officers in the middle of it goes, or she, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or they actually start crying, tearing up, going to a trance of like, “I just can’t deal with this.” This is what we’re trying to educate the public about is that this is what you may think and this is what happens to the human beings behind the badge. I’m hoping it breaks a better understanding and starts better conversations in our country. We’re off the track right now and we got to get it back, in all aspects.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You’re not suggesting that there aren’t perhaps bigger problems within the institution?

Joseph K. L:                            Of course.

Dr. Lisa B:                                When we decided to have you on the show, I actually had two separate younger people talked to me about institutional racism within the police force. I said, “Well, I’ve read this book and it doesn’t … ” Obviously, I have very limited experience with this, but it doesn’t sound like he’s saying there is or isn’t institutional racism. That’s not really the point of what you’re trying to say.

Kate Clark F:                           Yeah, this book was not written to cover all the problems with policing in America. This book was written to say when we’re going to have a conversation about policing and in particular, when we’re going to have a conversation about deadly force and the use of deadly force.

We would just like people who are entering that conversation to understand that the things that we cover in the book, the things that people believe versus what really happens, the speed with which these incidents happen, the long-term implications for the officers. You talk to the officers in Watertown, for example.

The ones who were in the shootout with the Tsarnaev Brothers who didn’t know they were in a shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers. They thought they were stopping two carjackers and then bombs start flying and that’s people who, years later, are just recognizing the devastating damages that that night did to them.

How, in terms of going on with their lives and when they go out, how they feel differently and how they see the world differently and how unnerving it can be. We’re just saying read the book, read the stories and think about this when you are jumping to judgment or when you want to have the conversation. We’re not saying this is the end of the conversation.

Joseph K. L:                            I deliberately stay out of race because that’s another 22 volume book, that you really have to drill down on. I think, again, perception becomes a reality and I have talked to hundreds of police officers, I’m still involved in the profession and I deliberately stay out of that. Two things that you had said is that when something goes out on the media and it’s played over and over and over again to get into the psyche of the American public, it confuses good citizens.

Whether it’s race or our force which people have very little realistic information on in regard to what police do, in general, every day. Deadly force, there’s no information, it’s TV and movies. When that video comes out, when you see a video of a partial point of the video, you’re not seeing the entire story or the contours of the event.

Look at a football game, how many cameras does it take to determine what happened, by people who are present and looking at it but yet, they got to go to a camera and look at eight different cameras and eight different angles. If you close your left eye or right eye and you take a view, it can be myopic or in the perspective of the officer. There’s a lot more happening in a 365 degree.

I even have people say, “Well, they did it again. They killed another Black guy for no reason,” and I’d go, “Well, wait a second. We don’t know what happened here.” Again, we’re not excusing poor tactics, horrible situations, tragic circumstances but people, I think our society, sees the same six videos played over and over and over again.

I can drill down on each one, I don’t want to get into that. What I want people to do, what we’d like people to do is let’s expand our mind a little bit and have some conversations about the human beings and the reality. Again, it’s not excusing terrible circumstances. Let me keep going, every single year in this country, 60,000 police officers, and that’s only a week, are assaulted in the line of duty.

It’s happened to me many times and many of my co-workers in Portland here and that’s illustrated in the book as well. There are officers that are shot in the face, they’re crippled for life, they have breathing tubes, they got cinder blocks on the head and the list goes on. Thousands every single year, you don’t hear a word. Very similar to our veterans that you don’t hear about. By the way, the veterans, there’s 22 suicides a day.

The same thing happens as pronounced in police work too because you’re exposed to such a undecided society, difficulty environment everyday with no good answers and is punctuated by violence. Back to the original piece of this, we stayed out of the race problem because it is a problem and it’s a perception and realities and all those things, that’s another whole book. That’s not the point of the work. The point of the work is the human beings and bringing us together with conversations. Makes sense?

Dr. Lisa B:                                Absolutely.

Joseph K. L:                            Okay, because what you’re saying is pretty good. You capture a lot. I can just go on and on because I get passionate about it.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Well, one of the things that, as I was reading the book, I was thinking about my work as a family practice doctor, my father’s work as a family practice doctor, my mother’s work as a teacher. I think don’t think it’s dissimilar in that you take all commerce, somebody crosses the threshold. At least, if you’re teacher or if you’re a physician and you deal with whatever it is in front of you. It’s not necessarily straightforward and it’s not necessarily as simple as, “Oh, here’s a urinary tract infection,” that you’re just going to give antibiotics to. There’s webs of things, you’re dealing with so much back story to so many of these situations. As a police officer, you’re not even in a safe environment necessarily, you go to wherever you’re needed to go and you do whatever they asked you to do. That’s probably about as sub-optimal as any job I could think of.

Joseph K. L:                            Well, you’re thrown into, again, rapidly evolving circumstance. 911 calls comes into this building for instance, with somebody, I don’t know, breaking all the windows out with an ax and going crazy and chasing people around. Now, by the time you get there, things have changed. You may think you’re going in to this environment here or the person has moved over there and there’s all sorts of damage.

You just don’t know, on any given call, what’s going to happen. Now, I’m painting an extreme case but most of the cases we talk about in this book happen on routine calls, a noise complaint, a routine arrest, a check-in on someone, a typical car stop. They explode into these insane cases with violence.

My point is you just don’t know on, any given day, what police officers negotiate each day. Let’s say there was a horrific accident out here when we all get out of the show here. People are dying and dismembered or something like that and everybody here in this room sees that, that’s going to affect you for the rest of your life.

That maybe the first call of the day for the officer and then he or she is going from one difficult situation to the next, trying to calm down. Abused kids, the list goes on and there’s a cumulative effect on the individual overtime. That’s another part of this book too is let’s do something for the holistic health of officers.

In the end, we talked about solutions where we can infuse some funds and money and create good employee assistance and good peer support networks which, by the way, it’s like 5% of police departments have that nationwide. Any profession that values bravery and stoicism, it’s put along the side.

Just like our veterans, you need to take care of the mental health and the emotional components of the job. Don’t you want good officers pulling up and trying to make informed decisions? It’s pretty tough. It’s a tough, tough job. Now, I think more than ever, I think we’re experiencing something in the profession that I haven’t seen since I’ve been involved in this.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Kate, were you surprised by some of the things that you found? It’s relatively recent that employee assistance programs have actually come on the scene, even the training is somewhat inconsistent. Some officers know a lot about weaponry and some officers don’t have quite as much knowledge. When you were writing this book, did you find things that you thought, “Oh my goodness, I never would’ve guessed that.”?

Kate Clark F:                           Not so much. The last book that I did was a Maine game warden’s memoir and after he had spent 25 years in the woods, he said he’d probably pulled 200 bodies out of the woods. He’d gone to New Orleans after Katrina. Because I’ve been doing this for a long time, I was much more focused, I think, on trying to make sure that the impact part of the story stayed in the book. When our editor would say, “I want to cut this here,” I would be saying, “No, because the things that the officer says about his life after this in the next three paragraphs are the critical ones.” What we’re looking for is not simply the incident but the resonance, the impact. I don’t think I was surprised. Joe, what do you think?

Joseph K. L:                            Well, you have experience now. You’ve been doing it for a long time.

Kate Clark F:                           I’ve been doing this for a while. I see one of the roles that I play as being a civilian spokesperson for saying this is a world we don’t know about. I act as a translator, so for me it wasn’t as surprising as it might otherwise had been if I hadn’t been doing this for 15 years. I think it should surprise and have impact on readers.

I think they should be saying I had no idea because, as he says, on Miami Vice, on TV shows constantly, the officer shoots somebody next week and the week after and the week after that. Even when I’m writing fictional cops, I’m always thinking about what’s the actual impact of having seen this thing or been in this situation. I think that’s important for the public, for all of us to understand. I shouldn’t say the public, I am the public.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Are we getting to a place where we are doing better at having conversations across disciplines? I guess what I’m specifically thinking of is we know that we have a drug problem, we know it’s a worsening drug problem. As a doctor, I deal with this all the time whether it’s a baby who is born from an addicted mother or whether it’s the family of a person who committed suicide after not being able to kick an addiction or the patient him or herself. Then you’re from the police force, you have a different view of this, the public has a different view of this. Are we getting better at having conversations?

Joseph K. L:                            We need to get better. We need to get better nationwide because critics of the police conveniently dismiss that the job is inherently dangerous and also, they dismiss statistics and the reality of the work and that’s what this is about. I think we really need to get a lot better. There’s a lot of talk but not about this. Police are ubiquitous, they’re everywhere.

The drug problem, that’s what people are focused on right now. The narcotics and the heroin problem is pronounced. It’s in front of us, we see it everyday. You see an officer sitting in a car or in the open-air, you don’t know what they’re doing, they’re just having a cup of coffee or writing a report maybe.

You have no idea where that person had been. He just might come from a SIDS death, a baby died or a horrible death scene or something really violent. We need to have these conversations and that’s why this book is about the extreme circumstances. Again, going back to where the nation convulsed into this craziness.

In the words of the president, scapegoating the police for all the other problems. Let’s look over here and not here. 17,250 murders in this country, deaths are up 20% from when I started doing the book. That’s a problem. How about two women a day are killed by spouses and guy violence? That’s a problem.

Why are we talking about what’s going on inside the inner cities and the terrible dysfunction and the hopelessness. These poor souls that live in these inner cities and then the police are put in an impossible situation with people who are in impossible situation. They’re not good outcomes. That’s the point of the book, let’s open our minds a little bit.

Expand conversations and not conveniently dismiss like, “Look, the cops did it again,” and go back to the ’60s or ’70s, a lot of people have a tendency to go back in time and think of the police in those terms or in terms of Hollywood. I really don’t think we are getting better, I think we’re getting better when something’s in front of us but from my perspective, I think the police are dismissed frequently.

People have parts and pieces of information from social media or from a reporter, “Yup, this is what happened tonight. We’re investigating it.” You’ll never going to hear anymore about the case which even when we pull up, as a commander that pulls up on a deadly force incident that I’ve been involved multiple times in.

It takes us time to figure out, hours and hours and hours to figure out. “Well, Kate was there,” “What do you mean Kate was there?” “Well, Dr. Lisa was there too,” and wait a second, it just takes a long time and then it takes protracted, multiple investigations from various sources.

From the attorney general officer, district attorney to internal affairs to use of force teams and policies and procedures. There’s a lot, lot more to this. Hopefully, going into the human dynamics behind these things and the humanity and the piercing and painful events that happen, I hope this does and we both hope this breaks better understandings.

Dr. Lisa B:                                I’ve been speaking with Joseph K. Loughlin, the former Assistant Chief of Police for the city of Portland and a published author, along with Kate Clark Flora who is a mystery and crime author who has published 18 books. Thank you for being here.

Kate Clark F:                           Thank you, Lisa. I wish we had another hour.

Joseph K. L:                            Thank you.

Speaker 1:                               Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port where every body is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at Aristelle.com.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Nancy Thompson is an insurance agent who lives in Cape Elizabeth. In 2004, her son Timmy took his life as a result of depression. Since that time, both Nancy and her husband have been speaking publicly about the loss to save other lives. Thanks for coming in.

Nancy Thompson:              Nice to be here, thank you for having me here.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You have a picture of your son, Tim.

Nancy Thompson:              I always take him with me.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Yeah, he’s sitting here with us. As someone who has a son who is now 24, I just remember this age so vividly and I remember just the sense that how could anything really go wrong in life. They’re so energetic, they’re so full of life and yet it did for you. Even looking at your son, it just makes my heart break as a mom.

Nancy Thompson:              Well, thank you. He was an incredible kid. Lots of energy, loved by all, wonderful, wonderful soul. Always had a smile on his face and was the first one to seek out if somebody was not up to par. If they were down and out, he’d be the first one, he’d be the class clown to make them laugh or make them smile or put that long arm around them. He was 6’3″, 175 pounds, long and lean. Just a loving, loving kid.

The sense that Timmy had, he’s very sensitive so he knew when other friends were struggling. He was the go-to kid. Just always, always fun so never, never in my wildest dreams that I ever imagined that he had this internal struggle called depression, that comes on so suddenly and so strong like a ferocious illness that just takes over.

It takes over your mind and he’s still there in that body, he’s still there in that façade but yet, the mind changes so quickly and so dramatically. To my husband, Tim and I, we’re really struggling to try and help him and it was a very short period of time. It’s a time of, like you said, excitement, high school.

They’re coming out sideways because they’re all nervous about which college they’re going to go to, where their friends are going to end up. It’s just very exciting. It’s on the last of all of the things that they’ve done for four years in high school. Suddenly and slowly, his personality started to change just towards the end of the school year.

He turned 18 on May 1st and was so excited about being a true adult and just going out into the world. I could just see a couple of times, he had just grabbed me in the kitchen, I was always grabbing him by the waist because he was so tall and pulling him in just to give me a hug before he left. I could just see in his face, it was different.

It wasn’t Timmy. We knew he was struggling a little bit but didn’t understand the whole process of depression and how it can take over your personality. We started to ask questions, try to get him into a doctor. He had been attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity since childhood and all the teachers would say, “Oh, don’t worry about it.

He’s got a lot of energy. When he grows up, he’ll be a CEO of a company. He’ll be in sales because he’ll have that energy. He’ll coral that energy and he’ll go out and do something wonderful in the world.” We got him to age 18, we got him through the school system, graduating from Cape Elizabeth High School, we did all those milestones. Then, all of a sudden, he started to change. In May, in June and literally, we’re fighting for his life.

Dr. Lisa B:                                It’s not a easy thing to get help for something like this, is it?

Nancy Thompson:              Gosh, no. No. One of my good friends is a psychiatric nurse. I didn’t even think in my own mind to pickup the phone and ask her and say, “These are the types of signs that I’m seeing.” He’s being restless, he wants to stay up at nighttime, he’s sleeping in the daytime where Timmy never slept in the daytime, the eating patterns had started to change. This is all within just a couple of weeks of time. People rack it up for senior summer, they’re busy, they’re not getting sleep, they’re running on empty. In hindsight, everything is perfect but the perfect storm was ahead of me and I didn’t understand what that perfect storm was, with all of the stressors that he had going on in his life at age 18.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Having worked with 18 year olds for a long time as a doctor, they’re not always interested in getting help or interacting and talking about things that are hard. Actually, I think I know a lot of adults this way too but to be an 18-year-old and sometimes not even have the words.

Nancy Thompson:              Independent. Thinking they could figure it out on their own. Looking back, most of his friends, they were so devastated when Timmy took his life because they had no idea, the internal struggle that he had. Just like his family. We’re a really tight family, we ate meals together, we were together, the seven Thompsons were glued together so his four siblings would have done anything in the world.

The kids said that they would’ve been with him 24/7 if they had to and I tell everybody, I would’ve strapped that kid to my back, I would’ve carried him 24/7 had I known six weeks after we started to think that he was having some problems. I wouldn’t have let him out of my sight. As it turned out, he ended up taking his life in our own home while all seven of us were there, trying to help him. We were there together, right at the very end.

Dr. Lisa B:                                It’s been almost 14 years. It’ll be 14 years …

Nancy Thompson:              This July.

Dr. Lisa B:                                This July but it’s still really …

Nancy Thompson:              It’s there, just like yesterday. Yeah, but a lot has happened in almost 14 years. A lot of good has come as a result of Timmy Thompson. I’m not afraid to talk about Timmy and that’s why I take his picture with me everywhere I go because I want people to know that this could happen to their child. I want people to know that a great kid like this could struggle with depression and it could happen to their own family members. We started lots of kitchen table conversations through the years for struggling teenagers.

I wanted parents to ask the questions, see how their kids are, check-in with their kids and we always had an open door policy in our house. All of Timmy’s friends came after we lost Timmy and I said, “I didn’t want a fall out. I didn’t want another kid to take their lives, I wanted them to talk to their own family members but if they weren’t comfortable, come and knock on my door. My door is open.” I would get kids coming in at midnight.

I’d be sitting in my pajamas in my den, looking at pictures of Timmy at midnight and I’d see these eyes peering in and my husband and I would wave them in. They were checking in with us and we were checking in with them, then they come in and talk. That’s all they wanted to do was talk. I think a lot of the times, family members don’t have that opportunity to talk. They don’t really see what’s going on with their kids because they’re so busy with life.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Where did Timmy fall in the line-up? Was he the oldest, was he the youngest?

Nancy Thompson:              No, middle. Middle. I had two daughters, Molly and Emily, they were 14 months apart and then two and a half years later, I had Timmy. He was this bounding energy and I had a harness on that kid from the minute he was 18 months old. You only have two arms but when you get your third child, you have to grab them and pull them in. Then two years later, we had Russell and then another two years, we had Hailey. Three girls and two boys.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Do you think that there was something about being a middle child that made him more likely to try to take care of himself a little bit?

Nancy Thompson:              Probably. Being the first male too, independent. Yeah, no, he was the center of the family because he did bring so much energy to the family. We love the energy because we’d be sitting around and not doing anything, he’d be the first one to say, “Come on, let’s go out. Let’s go outside and play. Let’s shoot some hoops. Let’s do this, let’s do that.” All of kids were pretty athletic so we spent a lot of time outdoors and they all skied and they all played basketball and they all played soccer. I spent my life in a minivan taking them everywhere, but I loved every minute of that. The travel soccer where we’d go to Maryland or Pennsylvania or wherever. Not just my own children but all these other kids so it was a busy, busy time. He added a lot to that energy and it was a lot of fun.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You talk about him being very tuned in to other people, sometimes people who are sensitive and tuned in to other people, they end up carrying burdens for others as well. Do you think that happened for him?

Nancy Thompson:              I totally agree with that. I think in his mind that he didn’t want to be a burden to his family. I think as he was thinking about that and thinking about the life that possibly he could have with his emerging mental health issue, that I think that he thought, in his mind, “I don’t want to be a burden to my family.”

I would give anything to go back and have that conversation with him and say, “Tim, that’s what families are all about. We’re here to support each other.” It’s not only my immediate family but again, I come from a large Irish-Catholic family in Boston with eight kids and my dad was a police chief in the town.

We did a lot of things and having a large extended family who loved and adored him, the ripple effect through the family was just immeasurable because all of a sudden, one minute Timmy was here and the next minute, he was gone. It wasn’t just the impact on our small nucleus, it was the extended family and then the community.

When we lost him, it was just incredible the amount of people that came out because they knew that he really was a great kid. You know how everybody has their moments but he really, truly was a good boy. That’s what a lot of people wanted to pay tribute to that, that he was a kind soul and he was very sensitive.

Dr. Lisa B:                                It is possible to be all of those things and have depression. Depression it’s a biologic process so I’m not sure everybody thinks about it that way. There’s such a stigma that is associated with mental illness, better than it used to be, we’re talking about it more and we’re realizing it more. I have talked to patients who have, for years, suffered with anxiety and depression and don’t want to talk about it with anybody else because they feel embarrassed somehow. Somehow it makes it so that they want to be positive, they want to help everybody else, they want to carry the burdens for other people and they can’t. It feels like a dark place inside of them. Did you ever get that sense with him?

Nancy Thompson:              No, not at all. Not at all. Again, because it came on so suddenly and so quickly at the end of his senior year, that we didn’t have enough time to deal with the depression that had come on so suddenly. I do, when I talk, I hope that by talking about it and being very public about depression, that people will understand that there are people out there to help.

Don’t be afraid of this crazy stigma about mental illness. We all have issues, we’re human. When you talk about it, I just hope that people will have a better understanding. Stop the stigma, be the voice. My youngest daughter, Hailey, has moved to Richmond, Virginia and she’s going for her Master’s. Obviously, her life was changed.

It turned upside down but she’s gone into social work and here’s this little sixth grader who lost her big brother who she adored and now, she’s 26 and going to get married in July. She speaks like me. At the top of a mountain, she spoke in front of a thousand people at a walk and he gives us the courage to go out there and go talk about it.

If we tell our Timmy story, that will save lives. I can’t tell you how many people talk about the stigma of suicide and how afraid they are. The more times you talk to people, the better off you’ll be because you are de-stigmatizing it. People can talk about heart issues or cancer like nothing, but they can’t talk about depression.

That’s one of the things that I tell everybody, I’m going to go to my grave talking about getting rid of the stigma because it’s silly. You will save a life. Put an armor on somebody if they’re struggling. Pickup the phone for somebody, access services, get to know your local support services.

They know it. Your first responders are the people that know when people are struggling. Just go the extra mile for people and I think this place would be a lot better if people weren’t so close-minded about mental health issues.

Dr. Lisa B:                                Why do you think that they are?

Nancy Thompson:              Again, the stigma. People feel like there’s something wrong with me if I have dark periods or something. There’s got to be something wrong with my family. Every family has issues, every family. Nobody’s perfect. It’s amazing the stories that I’ve heard through the years of just the simple acts of kindness that people have done when people are in a dark place, that have saved lives.

Literally saved lives. Opening doors for somebody who is just going to go and take their life because they were so tired of the day-to-day struggle that they had and that person that opened the door and said, “Hey, how’s your day?” snapped them out of it. I’ve heard so many stories from so many survivors, little acts of kindness made all the difference in the world that snapped them out of whatever it was, their thought process at that time.

Dr. Lisa B:                                We’ve been talking more about the depression, talk to me about the suicide. If depression has a stigma, suicide has that in spades I think. It’s such a final solution and I think all of us struggle with that.

Nancy Thompson:              Sure. Well, obviously people take their lives, they’re not in the right frame of mind. We all know that. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Usually, it goes hand-in-hand with somebody who’s struggling with some sort of depressive state and that’s why if somebody is suicidal or if they got suicide thoughts, don’t leave them. Be with them until you can access services that somebody will be there, some professional can help you.

A lot of people will claim that their suicidal and people will leave them unattended and they should have somebody there at all times. You’ve always got to have somebody. If they are tending to talk about suicide and there are enough professionals there, again, the first responders, most of them are trained on crisis intervention training.

They all have these wonderful training models and they are there to help. I think a lot of times, we have to have more people that will be open to helping one another. I think that there’s a fear there that they don’t want to extend themselves. Number one is stay with that person until you can have a professional help you.

Dr. Lisa B:                                What’s just so striking to me is you said that everybody in your family was home. You all were with Timmy and it almost seems as if you were living what you’re telling me other people should live and still, you went through with this. That is just heartbreaking really.

Nancy Thompson:              Yeah, it was. He had gone up into our bathroom and my youngest daughter, when the hair in the back of your neck goes up, she kept checking on him and we were moving him around from his bedroom, downstairs to upstairs. He had the high school pad downstairs in the basement because it was like a rite of passage when you’re going off to college that you got to have a downstairs suite.

He said to me a couple of days beforehand, “Mom, it’s too dark in the basement. I think I want to come upstairs.” We’re all moving his furniture upstairs and we’re shuttling up and down and taking care of all of his clothes and his furniture and painted the room because we knew he was struggling.

He went into our bathroom and Hailey had checked on him just 30 seconds beforehand. The week before, our attic door had broken and we heard bang and we thought it was the attic door coming down, that had broken. It was Timmy, he had shot himself on our bathroom. We had no idea that he had gotten a hold of a gun but he did and it was devastating for all of us. He had a plan in place and it was a difficult, difficult time for all of us.

Dr. Lisa B:                                It sounds like you were doing everything that you could do.

Nancy Thompson:              Yeah, we were. We really were. We were all with him and as I tell all these kids, I think in life they think that the problems that they have at the time are so difficult, that they’re not thinking as adults would. That they’re so severe at that stage that they don’t think clearly enough because obviously, their brains aren’t as developed as adults. Those small problems that they have as teenagers are so dramatic and so large that they can’t conceptualize getting through that problem. I think he just worn himself out. He had some relationships with some friends and he just thought this was his way of checking out.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You talked about your youngest who’s now … ?

Nancy Thompson:              26.

Dr. Lisa B:                                26, getting her Master’s in social work. How are your other kids doing?

Nancy Thompson:              They’re all doing really well. My oldest daughter, Molly, is expecting baby number two. My second oldest, Emily, is in South Korea with her husband, the military, has two children. My son, Russell, is at UNIM, thriving in his job and Hailey is in Richmond, Virginia. They’re all doing really well. The tightness that we always had got even tighter after we lost Timmy. It was almost like now the six of us were here against the world and we got really, really tight. It was nothing that we didn’t hold back from each other because I was nervous, not only for my husband and I, but I was nervous for the other four. I couldn’t imagine going through life losing a sibling and not being able to vent that and not being able to have that security from one another.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You’ve really maintained this positive energy in your life. You served on the board at the Center for Grieving Children and you’ve been associated with the Junior League of Portland for a long time. You obviously do a lot of speaking about Timmy and about your family’s experience and your experience. What have you learned as a result of all of this?

Nancy Thompson:              I’ve learned not to be afraid. I think from all the years that I’ve volunteered with the Junior League of Portland helped me because I volunteered in so many different capacities, working with lots of non-profits in Portland. I knew where to go to, we were instrumental in helping the Center for Grieving Children setup their organization and give them some money early on and provide volunteers.

That was a no-brainer for me. I love the center and the center is just an amazing place. It makes people whole again and I had my entire family, neighbors, friends, whoever was in the house within 48 hours, we were at the center. Patricia Allen who used to work at the center was there and was the facilitator in our deepest, darkest hour.

They were there and if I hadn’t been involved in our community, I never would’ve been able to access services right away. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m one of the lucky ones that had services right away. Then, that gave us the strength to move on but it’s easy to talk about Timmy because he’s the one who’s giving me the strength and the courage to do it. He really has.

I actually ran for public office early on because there was a vacancy and I figured maybe if I ran for office, I could possibly do some legislation for the state of Maine so people wouldn’t be so nervous talking about suicide. As it turned out, I lost. I ran not once but twice but it was a phenomenal experience.

I got to meet so many people in Augusta and I really was able to sharpen my skills in advocacy. One thing led to another and LD 609 was created and now, all the public school systems throughout the state, every person that gets a paycheck from the state of Maine. We had a school bus driver, a cafeteria worker, secretary, a teacher, admin, they all have to have some training in suicide prevention intervention and awareness.

Now, people are talking about it. Not afraid to talk about it. All they have to do is just refer out and it’s a referral. I’m hoping that those referrals would save lives. I think they have. There’s a video channel, they did a video and they show it every year. There’s a lot of really good people that are in the school systems, that have been talking this talk and walking this walk.

They’ve seen these kids come and go and it’s broken their hearts to see a lot of them not be productive members of society because we’ve lost them to suicide. They get it and they’re very appreciative. I get a tap in the shoulder at church or I get a tap in the shoulder while I’m in the Old Port, I get a tap in the shoulder no matter where I am. They say thank you and then that makes all the difference in the world.

Dr. Lisa B:                                I encourage anybody who is having difficulty with depression or thinking about suicide or knows anyone. You don’t have to be a doctor, you don’t have to be a healthcare provider, if you know that somebody is struggling, please do try to access services. There are a lot of people who are out there who are able to help and really small gestures can make a big difference. Please listen to what Nancy has been talking about and take it seriously because this is something that we are all in together. We all need to work on this together with the people in our community. I’ve been speaking with Nancy Thompson who is an insurance agent who lives in Cape Elizabeth. In 2004, her son Timmy took his life as a result of depression. Since that time, both Nancy and her husband, Tim, have been speaking publicly about their loss to save other lives. Thank you so much for coming in.

Nancy Thompson:              Thank you for having me.

Dr. Lisa B:                                You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 334. Our guests have included Joseph K. Loughlin, Kate Clark Flora and Nancy Thompson. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit Lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign-up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr. Lisa and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio, we welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have head about them here. We are pleased that they enabled us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                               Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee, our Editorial Producer is Brittany Cost, our Assistant Producer is Shelbi Wassick, our Community Development Manager is Casey Lovejoy and our Executive Producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano and Dr. Lisa Belisle. For more information on our production team, Maine Magazine or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at Lovemaineradio.com.

Transcription of Love Maine Radio #333: Jill Hinckley and Dr. Robert Snyder

Speaker 1:                               You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr Lisa Belisle and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr Lisa Belisle is a writer and physician who practices family medicine and acupuncture in Topsham. Show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com

Lisa Belisle:                             This is Dr Lisa Belisle and you’re listening to Love Main Radio show number 333, airing for the first time on Sunday, February 4th, 2018. Today’s guest are Jill Hinckley, owner of Hinckley Introductions, and Dr Robert Snyder, president of the Island Institute. Thank you for joining us.

Speaker 1:                               Portland Art Gallery is proud to sponsor Love Maine Radio. Portland Art Gallery is the city’s largest and is located in the heart of the old port at 154 Middle Street. The gallery focuses on exhibiting the work of contemporary Maine artists and hosts a series of monthly solo shows in its newly expanded space, including Ingunn Joergensen, Brenda Cirioni, Daniel Corey, Jill Hoy and Dave Allen. For complete show details please visit our website at artcollectormain.com.

Lisa Belisle:                             Jill Hinckley is the owner of Hinckley Introductions, a matchmaking and coaching agency based in Portland. Thanks for coming in today.

Jill Hinckley:                          Thank you so much for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                             So you have an interesting business in this day and age. We used to think of matchmakers way back when, then we came into the age of Tinder and Bumble and other apps. But you’re actually, you’re kind of old school. You’re doing stuff the way that it’s been done for a long time.

Jill Hinckley:                          I’m definitely trying to take it back to a more personal connection with people. I like to connect people on a personal and meaningful way, and this is how I do it. It’s real matchmaking. It’s one-on-one, as if you’re meeting a friend of a friend. That’s how I keep working on it being a personal experience for everybody.

Lisa Belisle:                             So you grew up in, you were born in Ellsworth and you grew up in Southwest Harbor. Your grandfather started Hinckley Yachts in 1928, so this is kind of a big departure from the family business.

Jill Hinckley:                          Very big, but not really because our family, we knew everybody that built a Hinckley boat. They came, we knew the whole family. It took at least a year to build a Hinckley boat. They would come up, they would visit. We would have dinner parties with the people that were building their boats. So we really knew everybody, every customer very personally. My grandfather, when he owned the Hinckley company, we only built 12 boats a year. So each family was very important. We knew every boat, name, every customer. That was a long time ago.

Fast forward, picnic boat, a whole different world at the Hinckley company. But that’s how I grew up. I grew up with very personal relationships with people and I loved networking and getting know people. So that brought me into this, yes.

Lisa Belisle:                             I’m guessing that there must have been a few other things that you’ve done in your life prior to now, because this is a relatively new business for you.

Jill Hinckley:                          I’ve been doing it for four years. Yes. After my family … I did work at the Hinckley company, I started when I was in high school giving tours of the Hinckley company. Went to high school, college, would come back and work in the summers on the dock. I worked in retail a lot. I am a mom with five kids, so I did a lot of staying at home with my kids while they were growing up.

Then, started working at the Hinckley company, again in their retail business. Then my father sold the Hinckley company in 1998 and I decided … I had remarried and I decided to move on and do other things. Well what I started doing was doing recruiting in the boat business. So there were other boat companies that were looking for people to work for their company, and I knew a lot of people through the Hinckley company that have worked with the Hinckley company for many years.

So that brought me into recruiting in the boat business. Which I loved, and it’s similar to matchmaking because you’re connecting businesses with employees and people, and getting to know people and interviewing people and understanding what they want, where they’re going, where they want to live. So recruiting in the boat business actually brought me to matchmaking. Kind of a round about way but I ended up here, and I love it.

Lisa Belisle:                             Was there one experience that, some sort of ah-ah moment, where you said, “Matchmaking, I’d be good with this. I think I should do this?”

Jill Hinckley:                          Well, Maine has been, was the tipping point for me, because Maine has incredible people that live here. They’re all different and diverse and have different careers. They live in different places.

I’m a lucky person, I get to live in all different parts of Maine, or go visit all different parts of Maine. So I was meeting people, sometimes from recruiting and sometimes personally, that were incredible people. I kept thinking, “You need to know this person. You need to know this person.” And then I would lose them, I would not be able to connect them.

So I started thinking, because I have all these single people I know, “How do I connect them? Do I use my recruiting skills?” You know, have them fill out my questionnaire, get to know them. So that if I do want to contact them I can reach out and have all their information. So it was really just inspired by all the great in Maine that I was trying to connect on different levels.

Lisa Belisle:                             How do you differentiate yourself as a matchmaker and your business, from the apps that we’ve mentioned? How are the people that come to see you different than the people who might say sign up for, I don’t know, match.com.

Jill Hinckley:                          I work with all, everybody. Anybody that comes into my group, there’s different levels. You can simply be in my database. It’s free, you just fill out my questionnaire and you can be free in my database. That’s just one way of putting yourself out there if you’re a single person.

I also coach people. A lot of people I work with are divorced or widowed and they haven’t been out there, and they don’t even know, there are so many incredible options. Yes, there’s Bumble and Tinder and Hinge and match.com and eHarmony, and there’s all these different ways you can step into this dating world. So I do coaching for people, and then I do personal matchmaking.

Personal matchmaking is usually working with somebody who has a very busy life, who prefers not to go online. Probably often times because of their career or something, or just plain busy, busy. Because being online and doing these apps does take a lot of time. People sometimes don’t have that time and they say, “Okay Jill, help me out here.” What I do is I setup the dates. I get to know everybody. I background checks if that’s necessary, and really make sure that these two people are compatible before they even meet.

Lisa Belisle:                             How do you do that?

Jill Hinckley:                          Lots of questions, lots of talking and getting to know them. I try not to have people bring a big list. Like, sometimes people are like, “Okay, these are all the things I want in my next relationship. I want him to ski and do all these things.”

It’s okay to have a few things on the list but I say it’s, how does that person make you feel? How does that person … Can you sit on that porch and talk for our with that person? Is that somebody you really want to spend time with? That’s where I try to get people to focus on, not so much the list but more about the experience of being with that person.

So it’s just me, like a friend. I really get to know them and say … And you know, first dates can be tough but they can also be so much fun. You get to know somebody as a friend. That’s the worst case scenario.

Lisa Belisle:                             I was thinking about our interview with DJ Jon. He was talking to us about people who came in with big lists of do-not-play music, and how challenging that really was for him. And that as a professional, what he preferred was, “Give me a few things that you like, and then just leave it up to me. I know how to do this.” And what you’re saying is a little bit of that. You know, “I’m going to get to know you, and I’m going to make sure that we put you together with somebody who at least foundationally you some things in common.” Does that sound right?

Jill Hinckley:                          Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, obviously there’s going to be some deal breakers for people that are really important. That can be, in this crazy world we live in today, politics can be a big one. So we have to talk a little bit about politics, religion. These are things that are really important to people. So I can see by getting to know them that this is going to be a deal breaker, one way or the other. Or, wow, these two people are very compatible and can talk for hours about this subject. So worst case scenario is their first date, they just really enjoy talking to each other. You found somebody that you agree with on a lot of different levels.

Lisa Belisle:                             so how does that come up in a conversation? Do you immediately put it out there, like, “Who did you vote for?” Or do you let things go a little bit and then kind of see where they might be inclined and then ask?

Jill Hinckley:                          When I interview people and have them fill out my questionnaire, it is a question that I do ask about the politics. Some people feel very strongly about it, some people are very easy going about it, they don’t mind. These are things that I learn just because I’m doing one-on-one, and also having them fill out my questionnaire. So I know them pretty well usually.

Lisa Belisle:                             What are some of the questions that you have on your questionnaire?

Jill Hinckley:                          I ask them about their lifestyle, about politics, their religion, if they’ve been married before, what sports and activities they like to do. I sometimes ask them, “What’s a typical Sunday? What do you do on a typical Sunday?” Because a lot of times that’s the day you have a chance to spend with somebody else, and I like to see that they would do the same things, or enjoy the same things.

What other questions do I have that are on the … You know, obviously age and whether or not they have kids, and whether or not they’re willing to travel to meet a match. A lot of people love to travel to meet somebody, and some people are like, “No, no. I’d rather meet somebody just 30 minutes away from me.” So that’s another big challenge I have, is geography.

Lisa Belisle:                             Are you dealing people who are just within the state of Maine? Or do your matches go all over?

Jill Hinckley:                          I started just in Maine, but I notice a lot of the people I work with either go to Florida in the winter time, or they travel in different parts of Maine, or some people even live in Maine and travel to Boston for work. So there’s a lot of cross-state-lines activity going on. Which really the fun part for me with that is I got involved with other matchmakers.

We have a whole network of matchmakers that I work with. Sometimes I’ll work with Florida matchmakers or I’ll work with a matchmaker in Boston. I actually just opened an office in Boston myself, so I do travel a bit to meet people. That’s so fun. I get to meet the most incredible people. So I cannot complain about that. But yes, a lot people are outside of Maine.

Lisa Belisle:                             That’s so fun, the idea that there’s all these other matchmakers out there in the world. I hadn’t really ever thought about that. I guess my daughter has watched a reality show about some sort of matchmaker somewhere, so….

Jill Hinckley:                          I’m sure she has, those are fun.

Lisa Belisle:                             Yeah. I mean, I knew that that existed but I think it shows that there’s still this need for a personal connectivity, even that you have at your fingertips the computer that you could use or your phone. That some people really just prefer to have somebody that they can talk to who can help them out.

Jill Hinckley:                          Absolutely. I love that, because people have so many questions about this, and no two people are going to have the same experience. Everybody comes at this from a different direction, different point of view, a different experience. And that’s the fun for me, is I get to know them individually, work with them, and I love working with other matchmakers.

If another matchmaker in Boston, for example, has a client they’re working with, they might contact me and see if anybody in my database or anybody I’m working with might match up with their client. She knows, that other matchmaker knows her client. I know my client. So we get together, we talk about our clients that we’re working with. Often times that’s really fun because they go out and have a great date, and you meet somebody you never would have met if you hadn’t signed up with a matchmaker.

Lisa Belisle:                             Do the people that you work with tend to be older? People who, as you just mentioned, maybe are widowed or divorced, or maybe just have never gotten married?

Jill Hinckley:                          Definitely. I work with 40 and up, but I do have other matchmakers that I do work with that work with a younger crowd. It’s just a matter of staying focused on my … I’m 54 years old. I tend to work with that crowd a little bit better than the younger crowd. It’s just a different … but that’s why I think, when you sign up with a matchmaker, it’s really important that you connect with that matchmaker, that you feel like that matchmaker gets you. I just feel like I’m really good with the 40 and up crowd, and maybe not so focused on the younger crowd.

Lisa Belisle:                             Do you notice that people who have gone through some of these fairly traumatic things in their lives, loss of a spouse or divorce even. Do you notice that they’re still working through things? Is this ever something that comes up for you in conversation with them?

Jill Hinckley:                          Definitely. Definitely. I mean, you have to be ready. Timing is really important for matchmaking, because we jump right on it. We get excited about meeting you. You know, who are we going to set you up with? So you have to be ready or your schedule has to be. You have to fit this into your life.

And sometimes, emotionally I find that people are just not really ready for this. They’re not really sure how this is all going to play out for them. So another thing I love to do is network with people, life coaches, therapists, make-up artists and photographers. I mean any resource that that person I feel like needs.

Sometimes people haven’t had their picture taken in … I mean, they take pictures of everybody else but they haven’t had a picture taken of themselves in like five years. So I’ll send them to a photographer, and then they’ll be so excited because they finally have a great picture of themselves. It just makes them feel good and that’s a great way to put yourself out. I tell them, “Put it on your Facebook page. Get excited. Go out there and attend more events.”

So yeah, everybody comes at it, and I sort of think of tweaking them a little bit. “Okay, I’m going to send you down this road for a little while,” and then they’re really ready for this. But not everybody comes ready to go.

Lisa Belisle:                             So if they needed to process their grief for example, you could say refer them to a counselor. Or if they just needed some, I don’t know, hair advice, you could send them towards somebody who could help them with maybe something that’s not quite as deep seated. And people generally are okay with this sort of advice coming from you.

Jill Hinckley:                          Generally, yeah. I think they’re generally excited about it. Because this is a big step for a lot of people that haven’t been out in the dating world for a long time, so we try to take baby steps. We don’t want to throw them into this without all the tools they need to get through this experience. So it is baby steps, but hopefully they’re happy with that. Yeah, it works well.

Lisa Belisle:                             I think that some of the patients that I see, that they want to jump right back into. Say maybe they lost their spouse suddenly, and they’ve never been alone and they want to jump right back into a relationship. I have seen this happen more than once, where … Or even a divorce, where somebody, it’s just immediately into the dating pool. And it doesn’t always work out that well because they needed to put some closure on the relationship they had, to grieve that relationship before they could move on. When that happens, do you say, “Hey, come back and see these other people? The counselor, the somebody else that you might meet, you know, your pastor, and then come back in a few months?”

Jill Hinckley:                          Absolutely. What I would suggest in that situation is for those people to be in my database. My database is quite large, because it’s a free database and people come into my database. I only work with 10 to 15 people personally a year. So those people I know, and I don’t sign anybody up for that unless I know they’re ready.

So be in my database is kind of fun for people, because that’s the baby step. And then if I have somebody I’m working with, I’ll contact them and I’ll say, “Okay, how are you doing? Are you ready for this? This is an opportunity I have for you.” And then can pass. They can say, “You know, I’m not really ready right now.” Or, “Yeah, you know, it’s been a few months since I’ve joined your database and now I’m ready.”

I check in with everybody to make sure they are ready for this, and usually they are. I have great, fun people that are using me as one of their resources if they’re in my database, because I want them to be out on Bumble and try new things, be on Facebook.

Non-profits is a really big thing for me. I tell all my single people that I get a chance to, and now I’m on the radio so I can tell them. Go to non-profit events. Join something in your community. Get involved people that are giving to their community. That’s where you want to be. You want to be out and about. You don’t want to be sitting in my database waiting for something to happen. Which is great, I want you to be there too, but also I want my people to be out and about and meeting new people. That’s the best.

Lisa Belisle:                             When you are out and about in various capacities, are you constantly thinking, “Is this person single? She or he could match up with somebody else.”

Jill Hinckley:                          Maybe. Possibly, yes.

Lisa Belisle:                             I can just see the computer kind of going on in your head.

Jill Hinckley:                          My antennas are up. I’m looking all around. Yeah. I try to put myself out there too, because I want to on behalf on my clients be out there, meeting people, networking. And yeah, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s hard to put myself out there because I’m generally not as outgoing as my husband is for example. He’s the one that’s much more outgoing. But we play off each other. He says, “Okay, there’s this event. Let’s go.” And I love that about my relationship with my husband, because it creates this opportunity for me to meet new people and to put myself out there.

Lisa Belisle:                             That’s an important point, that you wouldn’t always want to have your list of what you want in someone, because maybe you actually want somebody who complements you, and it’s possible you don’t even know what that looks like.

Jill Hinckley:                          100% agree with you. Absolutely. If I had had a list, I would not be married to my husband right now. Although we complement each other so well, and we laugh, we have fun, and we have difference that we celebrate about each other. But we also have some core values and things that bring us together. We’re very family-oriented with our kids, and we love to do certain activities together.

One of the things we love is the ocean. We do love to go boating, and that was really important to me because I love the ocean so much, to be able to share with somebody. But we’re very different human beings, very different. Now I laugh about it but at the time I was like, “I don’t know, he’s so different from me.” Yeah, I look for opposites. I think opposites attract.

Lisa Belisle:                             You said you have five kids. What do they all think of what their mamma’s doing these days?

Jill Hinckley:                          Some think it’s really fun and funny, and some are like, “I can’t believe, I’m telling anybody you’re doing this.” No, they’re just, my 15 year old I embarrass her completely. My older kids are 25, 27, 28 and 30, so they’re pretty proud of me because I’m having fun with this. I ask them about all the apps, “Okay, tell me how do you use Bumble?” Because I’m not on these apps, I need them to teach me how to use these apps, and then I pass that information on to my clients. So they’re big help to me. They’re great.

Lisa Belisle:                             Well, and to be fair, pretty much any 15 year old, probably 15 year old girl is probably going to have some embarrassment about a parent. So I doubt very much it’s specific to your child and your profession.

Jill Hinckley:                          [crosstalk 00:21:52] not, but yes. Yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                             You’ve gone through this four other times, so I’m guessing that you have a sense, it will probably shift at some point.

Jill Hinckley:                          Exactly, I hope so. Yeah.

Lisa Belisle:                             Yes. What is it that you hope to see your business do? You’ve been doing this for four years. You’ve opened an office in Boston. Where do you hope to go from here?

Jill Hinckley:                          Well, I want us to stay very personal. No, I don’t want to be a big company, but I love being able to meet new people. It brings so much energy to my life and so much fun. I work with my assistant, [Caroline Clement 00:22:32], who I work with. She and I, we talk about different clients together, and who we should introduce to other people. We setup dates. I mean, to keep it going the same way it’s going right now would be the way I’d want to do it. Just as personal as possible.

Lisa Belisle:                             Is it something that’s easily scalable? When you think of business, and you’re doing that’s very personal, and Caroline is doing something that’s very personal, how many more offices in different cities could you actually support?

Jill Hinckley:                          I don’t think I’d want to, but yes, matchmakers do go big. There are some big matchmakers out there that are in New York, California. You can join a matchmaker and they can have multiple offices. So the sky is the limit really in this world. But I prefer to be a smaller matchmaker, more regional in who I’m working with, than to have corporate offices all over the country. But yeah, you can, and I have clients that come to me that live that lifestyle. That say, “I have a home in New York, and I have a home in Maine, and I actually have a place in Santa Fe, New Mexico.” So they might want to work with one of those big matchmakers, because they actually do have offices in all those locations.

So actually, I do refer people to other matchmakers that are doing that. That’s why I say it’s a very personal experience. Each matchmaker has a specialty. I do focus a lot on people that love to sail and the ocean, so I get a lot of that. I market kind of towards that client. Whereas other matchmakers will work with people that maybe travel a lot or are all over. I work with matchmakers in Europe. I’ll have a client that lives in Portland, Maine, that travels a lot and wants to meet somebody outside of this country, so I’ll setup him up, or her up, with another matchmaking outside of this country.

It’s a very vast network that you get to be part of when you join this. I’m part of the Matchmaker Institute. We actually take this very seriously and it’s confidential information that we’re sharing between matchmakers. Yeah, it’s been a very serious career. It’s very fun. It’s great.

Lisa Belisle:                             I had no idea that there was such a thing as a matchmaker institute.

Jill Hinckley:                          And a matchmaker conference, we meet every year and we collaborate and we have guest speakers that talk about social media and all the different things that go with matchmaking.

Lisa Belisle:                             That must be a very social kind of experience going to a matchmaker conference.

Jill Hinckley:                          It’s great. It’s great. They’re great people. They’re really fun.

Lisa Belisle:                             I was going to say, I go to doctor conferences, we’re all a little bit withdrawn. So mostly we just kind of sit by ourselves and occasionally smile to each other. But I’m thinking, if you go to a matchmaker conference you’re probably very outgoing with one another.

Jill Hinckley:                          Right. Sometimes we bump into problems. There will be things, that we’ll have a difficult situation that we’re trying to navigate, and the matchmakers will help each other. We actually have a closed Facebook page that we talk to each other, if there’s something that comes up that we need to figure out, or get someone else’s advice. That’s another reason, it’s I’m not alone when I’m doing this. So I don’t know why I would need to expand too much, because I have this resource right here that I can talk to matchmakers all over the world.

Lisa Belisle:                             Jill tell me about your one favorite success story.

Jill Hinckley:                          My one favorite success story.

Lisa Belisle:                             I’m sure you have many.

Jill Hinckley:                          Right. Okay. I have … I can’t tell you anything about the person because her life is very private. She was living outside of Augusta. She contacted me. She found me on the internet, and she has a fascinating career, but I couldn’t tell anybody what her career was. I had to screen everybody extensively before they met her. So I had to make sure that they didn’t have a criminal record, but they also couldn’t have worked for certain state agencies, and they couldn’t have … The screening process was really extensive, that I was putting people through to meet her.

I was worried that, boy, I was going to scare people off, because I couldn’t tell them anything about her. But she was so interesting, so intelligent. I would be talking to her for hours on the phone, getting to know her, but then I couldn’t tell the person that she was going to meet on the first date her last name. I mixed up her first name so that they would never be able to Google her and find her. It was like a very extensive process. I think I set her up on three dates. By the third date she met this guy that I had known. I had been meeting … You talk about not being ready, he wasn’t really ready. He had come and I’d met him, but there was timing.

Then I just had this moment where I thought, “This guy is perfect for her.” So I reached back out to him, set them up on a date. And gosh, they were, immediately, they were both a little quirky but oh my gosh, they had so much fun. They connected on so many levels. So for her to be so happy, and I actually think that they’ve been going, they’ve been spending, they’ve been together for several months now. She’ll check in with me and tell me how happy they are. I’m just so happy, because she really was one of those people that could not put herself out there at all, and had to be really careful about who she met. That does make it a little challenging for a matchmaker, because I can’t tell anybody much about her, so a lot of people are very apprehensive, but she’s really happy. I love that.

The other people I have in matchmaking is I cannot give you much information about who I work with. So testimonials are hard, because my clients want to have a pretty private experience with this, and I get that. So I’m pretty careful about not giving too much information out.

Lisa Belisle:                             Well, it sounds to me like you have people that are coming to work with you who’d kind of understand that, that testimonials are just not going to be a thing. Which is probably not the worst thing, right?

Jill Hinckley:                          Right, right. Although it’s frustrating because I want to just tell everybody how much fun this is and who I setup, but I can’t. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can tell people. I ask them if it’s okay, if I can say that I introduced you or something. But yeah, I’ve been doing it for four years now, so I have a lot of couples that have met each other. And sometimes I lose track of them too because I might introduce them, and sometimes people will meet and then they decide it’s not a match, but then they connect later and then they are going out. I’m like, “Wait a minute. I thought … ” So yes, people are moving around, a little bit hard for me to track them down.

Lisa Belisle:                             Well, I appreciate you’re coming in and talking with me today. I’ve been speaking with Jill Hinckley who is the owner of Hinckley Introductions, a matchmaking and coaching agency based in Portland. Thanks for the work you’re doing.

Jill Hinckley:                          Thank you so much. That was really fun.

Lisa Belisle:                             It was really fun, I agree.

Speaker 1:                               Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where everybody is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                             Dr Robert Snyder is the president of the Island Institute. He is responsible for working with island and coastal leaders in Maine to identify and invest in innovative approaches to community sustainability. Nice to have you here today.

Rob Snyder:                           Thank you very much for having me.

Lisa Belisle:                             It’s okay for me to call you Rob.

Rob Snyder:                           Please, it’s my preference.

Lisa Belisle:                             What is your doctorate in?

Rob Snyder:                           It’s in cultural anthropology. That turns out to be a fairly useful degree despite my parents’ concerns. What they do teach you in anthropology is how to turn people into your teachers, how to learn to listen and how to write. I can’t imagine skills that would be more important than entering the coast of Maine from away and trying to navigate your way.

Lisa Belisle:                             What was your focus? If you are an anthropologist who has a doctorate, there must have been some area of study.

Rob Snyder:                           Sure. I began actually in China with a focus on international development and the critique of international development. So it’s a little bit ironic that I now run a community development organization, but that’s my background. I moved from there to focus on Maine fisheries, big shift. Left China, came to Maine, and started to focus on the privatization of the ocean as a process that was underway here. There was a major piece of work that took place around 2010, where New England fisheries moved to a new management system. Where quota became the management device, the idea that you could own pounds of fish in the ocean with a permit. So I was part of studying the creation of that program, that management system, and I did that for my PhD ultimately.

Lisa Belisle:                             You’re from Cleveland, Ohio.

Rob Snyder:                           That’s correct.

Lisa Belisle:                             So, China and fisheries didn’t necessarily enter into your early childhood years I would guess.

Rob Snyder:                           No. I’ve always made quality of life choices once I had the chance to make those choices. So I lived out west after living in Cleveland for a decade. Then I moved to Toronto where I did my PhD, and then after my wife and decided we wanted to live somewhere where it would be great to raise our family. I either wanted to live in The Rockies or on the ocean, and so because of her family being from New England we chose Maine and the ocean. That was 15 years ago.

Lisa Belisle:                             What has it been like to go from this, I mean Cleveland is a fairly big urban developed part of the United States, China is obviously, urban, developed. And now you’re working in Maine and you’re working with very small communities. How has that been like from a mindset shift?

Rob Snyder:                           It was really difficult. It took a long time for me to figure out how to make sense of where I had landed in Maine. Took me literally five or six years, at least, before I started to feel like I could understand what was going on around me, because of the tight-knit nature of the communities and the people’s reliance on each other. These were not skills I was raised with. I tended to live in place that had been the outcome of sprawl. So people building rings further and further out into the countryside from Cleveland. Each generation of my family lives farther and farther from the city center, and that’s just kind of the way I experienced growing up.

There was a element to it which I think you would find in many different areas of the country. There was the idea that I was kind of coming from anywhere in the country. So the idea that you could come from a fairly ambiguous anywhere, and land in a very specific somewhere, where people have an incredible attachment to place and pride of place, and frankly a cautionary kind of acceptance of people, was really interesting and challenging. When I realized the intensity of the identity that people have who are from here, it also made me realize the way I need to position myself relative to that is pretty important, particularly working in a non-profit.

Lisa Belisle:                             So how did you position yourself? How have you been … I guess, it’s probably a work in progress, I would assume.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah. No, I think I’m definitely a work in a progress. The way that I’ve started out and where I’ve kind of been for a number of years, is this idea of the professional outsider, right? Because people seem pretty willing to allow you to be in place here in Maine as somebody who acknowledges their away-ness. Far more so than if you show up and you try to claim any sort of origin from here.

It’s been very I think in a way safe and productive to say even, “I am from away, and there can be value in that. Let me try to articulate that value.” So I spend a lot of time trying to provide value to coastal and island communities based on my very specific position as an outsider.

And then 15 years later, continuing to navigate that, but also now with children in schools and with a attachment to my community, recognizing that there are ways in which people are more willing to hear what I have to say, but there’s still plenty of skepticism. And I think that’s why the coast and islands are so beautiful and different, is because of that caution and concern for continuity in place, right? That people want to … change comes hard here, and because it comes hard it keeps these places really special, and that’s wired into the DNA of those who have been here for generations.

Lisa Belisle:                             It’s interesting to hear you say this, because obviously we all know that you can’t be from Maine unless, not only you were born in Maine, but you also have several generations back.

Rob Snyder:                           It’s my understanding.

Lisa Belisle:                             Yes.

Rob Snyder:                           So my kid’s kids-

Lisa Belisle:                             Exactly.

Rob Snyder:                           … will finally be able to claim status, potentially.

Lisa Belisle:                             Potentially, yes. [crosstalk 00:37:05]

Rob Snyder:                           Depends how they behave.

Lisa Belisle:                             Exactly. And yet, there are so many people who are coming in who are supporting island communities who are not from Maine at all, weren’t born here. Maybe they have a summer connection, maybe they went to summer camp and feel a connection to Maine, but there isn’t the same type of background.

So I would think that that would be one of the challenges of the Island Institute is working with, is that people can contribute in really wonderful ways and be very different people from very different places, but it’s still a small community.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah. I think one of the challenges is figuring out how to draw attention to and celebrate the ways in which people who may be globally networked and have significant resources can participates in the future of these communities. It’s a huge part of the struggle that these communities are engaged in on a year to year basis.

And so what I’ve found, my experience has been that there are very important people in each community. There are groups of people who I kind of view as bridging personalities. People who may be from the community but have gone away and returned, or people who have been summering for many generations in these communities but they’ve built the trust of many different communities within any one of Maine’s coastal communities. And those bridged personalities play a hugely important role, primarily a communication role, which is about helping people talk about and think about how they’re interests can be joined together from all the different facets of any small community.

I mean, some of the communities we work in have 35 people or 45 people, and 45 different points of view much of the time. As a result, you know, it takes a very special person to be able to navigate that, to be able to allow people to feel heard on all sides, allow people to make community-wide investments in their future. Whether it’s in their school or some other challenge that they’re trying to address.

Lisa Belisle:                             So your background in cultural anthropology might actually be a benefit in this situation, where you can observe what is going on and figure out the best way to involved or step back, depending upon the needs.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah, I think one of the things that I really enjoy is helping people connect with each other and helping people connect the dots. One of the things that you have when you are not of the place and is a bit of an opportunity, that you don’t have the political weight of your family history, which is significant.

So where and when that can be helpful, to say, “Hey, here’s a resource over here you might consider,” or, “Here’s a person over there you might talk to.” That can be a useful way to help people move community issues forward. I just have to say, I don’t think I answered that question very well, so …

Lisa Belisle:                             Actually I thought it came up fine. I don’t know.

Rob Snyder:                           Well, can you say the question again?

Lisa Belisle:                             Spencer, are you happy with the answer? Does it seem like it made sense? I mean essentially I asked, does your background in cultural … It seems like your background in cultural anthropology might be helpful.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah. I think, I mean it’s been very helpful for me to figure out how to navigate all of this. I feel like one of the things that you have to do when you’re working in and partnering with community leaders, is understand that whatever problem you’re trying to solve, whether it’s attracting and retaining families, or whether it is about dealing with the threats of storm surge, or whether it’s dealing with the way the lobster industry is generating wealth or creating different types of social issues. Every one of those challenges, often people are looking for folks with resources to bring to bear on answering that question. So if you can hear the question really well and you can actually understand the nuances of the questions that people are trying to answer in their community, then you are better prepared to bring the right resources to help them answer it.

Lisa Belisle:                             You know, that’s such an interesting perspective on things, because I know that when I’m with a patient one-on-one, in a situation, or a patient’s family, often the question that’s being asked or the statement that’s being made is not the real question or the real statement. So there’s a teasing back to try to determine what the actual issues are, and that requires a lot of trust. It requires a lot of relationship building. It requires both people, or all the people involved be open to talking things out, to hashing through problems. And that’s not something that everybody, and I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but it’s not something that everybody feels that comfortable with doing, nor are we trained to do it.

Rob Snyder:                           Right. No, I think that’s a great observation. I mean, I think about how busy people are in their daily lives and how many different hats they would wear on a given day in a community. They might be on the school board and on the select board, and they’re also an EMT, and they’re involved in … they have so many different things going on.

And so when you come and want to talk about how you can be helpful, you’re a burden in asking the question even. So trying to provide the space … So right to your point, this is where trust really does matter, where relationships and real intention to care and to act and not just to sit and think about other people’s challenges is really important. If we don’t actually find a way to be responsive we would lose the trust.

People finally, after 34 years, not finally but just, you know, certainly over time people have become much more willing to give us that time to share their stories and their concerns, with the expectation that something will come of it. Right? That something will happen. And that’s just, I think to me very much fundamental to being successful in our work, is that, are those relationships and that trust that comes with being responsive.

Lisa Belisle:                             The Island Institute, although it’s 34 years old, has not had that many people who were president. So you’re in a fairly small lineage.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah, I’m number two.

Lisa Belisle:                             So how has that been for you? To have one person who was the head for many, many years, and then for you to be the second person. The first person I believe was one of the founders.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah, Philip was the founder. Philip Conkling was the founder of the Island Institute, and then there’s a co-founder, Peter Ralston, who came along shortly after. I worked with them for a long time before I became the president of the organization. They taught me a lot. A lot about the difficulty of navigating community politics, the challenges of building the funding base for an organization, about … I mean, one of the things I really enjoyed about being mentored by both of them was their consummate passion for storytelling.

They were both, they both are incredible storytellers. And so there’s so much heart in the way they cared about telling the stories of the coast of Maine in images and words, and that’s something that I’ve known I really want to hold onto. Because I do think that’s how you amplify people’s voice. It’s how you empower people to try things out and to take risks, by helping them tell their stories.

And so, they were incredible. Being number two was … So far I think I’ve defied the odds. Most people say, “You don’t want to be the one that comes after the founder. You want to be the one that comes after the one who comes after the founder.” But hey, I’m only four years in, so I’ve got ways to go.

Lisa Belisle:                             The Island Institute does have very beautiful publications, and has had it seem like going back to the beginning.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah, it was the first thing they ever did, was the Island Journal.

Lisa Belisle:                             And I think when you say the importance of story is really significant, I think that can’t be understated. That people, unless they actually have a way of understanding what is going on in these communities, you wouldn’t be able to come, take it from your own life. I eman, you could relate in many ways, but it’s so special and specific.

Rob Snyder:                           I think so. I think it’s about, because it’s about identity, right? It actually is about how we remind ourselves of who we are. It’s where we talk about the struggles over who we’re becoming? And so the better job we do at capturing that in words and images, the more likely we are to help people navigate the day-to-day challenges that they deal with.

I think the journal, which is primarily something that goes to our members, a number of whom are island and coastal residents, is this incredible celebration of island and coastal … actually it’s really a celebration of island life and culture. But then the newspaper, which has a much, much broader readership, that really does on a monthly basis remind us of who we are, what our values, what we care about and what we’re concerned about. It think that to me is a, as an anthropologist, a major identity project. That’s how we’re going to continue to talk about and struggle over our future and who we’re becoming.

Lisa Belisle:                             One of the most fascinating things that I’ve learned working as a writer for Maine Magazine, previously as a writer for other publications, is that, the idea that you can’t fact-check something and that there is a truth that we can come to and understand, is really a fallacy. That you can check numbers, you can check dates and spellings, but the more important thing for people is often what they said and how they’ve said it, and the way they’re portrayed. In a small community and as someone who writes about small communities and represents them, that must be an interesting balance for you.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah. I mean, I think to me it’s one of the greatest responsibilities the organization has, is to be very careful about that, frankly, the power wrapped up in representation. So to me, we’re at our best when it’s actually other people speaking for themselves, rather than the Island Institute speaking for.

I think that the singular authoritative voice speaking on behalf of anybody is long done, and we’re certainly coming to a close. What we want to figure out how to do now is to kind of facilitate and curate the creation, the representation of people in their own words. That’s kind of how we’re moving.

So rather than the expression of these communities as something you move past or through in visual and words, how do we actually have communities represented on their own terms, for selling their own stories and where we are simply facilitating and curating. So that the best quality version of that can be made available. That is a major emphasis in how we’ve continued to evolve our media work. I think things like virtual reality give you an even more intense opportunity for people to tell their own story from their own perspective in ways that …

And you know, I think shows like this do it as well because it is in the inflection of a voice or you know, in a local statement or colloquialism, that you actually get a real sense for where you are and where people are coming from.

Lisa Belisle:                             What are the major issues that you are working on right now?

Rob Snyder:                           Sure. Well, ultimately we’re very concerned about the economic base of the coast of Maine being so heavily reliant on the lobster fishery and tourism, primarily third quarter earnings from tourism. And so we’re really trying to figure out how we can broaden the economic opportunities available to people now and in the future.

There are a few major focus areas that have to do with that. So building out from the lobster fishery, trying to … we’re working with fishermen who are interested in entering into the aquaculture business, shellfish and kelp aquaculture in particular, because of the related skillsets and infrastructure that many fishermen already have. It’s a fairly … I want to say, there are some risks involved but it’s risk that can be understood and mitigated if people are interested in diversifying their marine income. Kind of back to the identity issues, right?

One of the things we know is really important is that people care that they’re living requires some significant connection to the sea. Whether or not it’s fishing for what’s here today or what’s here tomorrow, that is a huge part of the coast of Maine’s identity. And so we know that was look to the future economy, we want to make sure that we retain that important connection.

And then in addition to that, looking to your point about whether people are here and going away and returning, or coming from elsewhere. We know that the state of Maine’s broadband infrastructure on the coast is essential to diversifying economic opportunities for people. There’s tremendous amount of stranded talent in communities. People who have gone away, gotten their education, and can’t put it to work in the ways that they would like. And so we do see broadband as a fundamental issue for the economic future of the coast. Certainly this is something people recognize nationally, but I think we have a unique opportunity to do something about it here.

And then the last thing I’ll point to is the work we’re doing to help people save on energy. We are a very high cost energy state. The coast and islands are even more so. And so these communities have to be places where businesses will want to locate, and the cost of energy is a major disincentive, but also just the cost that we spend on home heating. What we spend in Maine to heat our homes is in particularly the highest in the nation, and so anything we can do there will help people find Maine a more attractive place to stay or to move to.

Those are some of our key issues, and then underneath that, you know, we are working quite a bit on workforce development related to those outcomes, and also leadership development in communities related to those outcomes. So yeah, it’s really about strengthening community economies. It’s about workforce and leadership, and then all that media work we’ve talked about is really about sharing what works from place to place, and helping people speed up the rate at which they solve problems.

Lisa Belisle:                             You mentioned before we came on the air that despite the fact that I think of Cleveland as being kind of landlocked, I know there’s a big lake there. As I have mentioned to you, I’ve been there. There actually is a significant island culture, [crosstalk 00:54:05] the great lakes.

Rob Snyder:                           Around the great lakes we have learned over the last six or seven years now we’ve been working with the Office of the Great Lakes, which is based in Michigan. They became very attracted to the Maine islands because there are 16 island communities in the great lakes, year-round island communities that actually share many of similar challenges around affordability, around access to broadband and future economic opportunity.

So yeah, they’ve been working with the Island Institute. We’ve been connecting them to the Maine Island’s Collation and to Island leaders in Maine, you know, learn how the coast of Maine has gone about connecting island communities. Through us we’re helping a couple of different organizations in the Michigan area figure out how to replicate the Island Institute.

Lisa Belisle:                             That seems like it would be a little bit surprising. Here you are from Ohio, and you’re background actually has some relevant to the work you’re doing in Maine.

Rob Snyder:                           Yeah. I feel like I’m really more and more aware of the fact that really what we are working on are challenges that remote communities everywhere are dealing with. When I lived in the high mountain west, I saw this. We’ve been invited to the Outer Banks and to the Virgin Islands and to the Gulf of Alaska. In each of these places there are island, many different kinds of island communities, whether they are landlocked or not, there are island all over the place.

And so they’re curious about the Island Institute and what can be learned from the coast of Maine’s island and coastal communities. I think as we move forward as an organization we have to figure out what role we want to play in being the host to that type of learning. I do think the coast of Maine is … I do think there’s a real opportunity and it’s happening, that the coast of Maine is viewed as a place where you can come to learn about community sustainability from people here who’ve solved really challenging problems in really practical ways. I think it appears that the leaders we work with here are happy to tell their story.

Lisa Belisle:                             I’ve been speaking with Dr Robert Snyder who is president of the Island Institute. He is responsible for working with island and coastal leaders in Maine to identify and invest in innovative approaches to community sustainability. This has been a fascinating conversation. I think what you’re doing is very interesting and I really appreciate the time that you have taken to come here today, and also the work you’re doing with the Island Institute.

Rob Snyder:                           Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:                               Love Maine Radio is also brought to you by Aristelle, a lingerie boutique on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port, where everybody is seen as a work of art and beauty is celebrated from the inside out. Shop with us in person or online at aristelle.com.

Lisa Belisle:                             You’ve been listening to Love Maine Radio show number 333. Our guests have included Jill Hinckley and Dr Robert Snyder. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radio Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter as Dr Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr Lisa Belisle, thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.

Speaker 1:                               Love Maine Radio is brought to you by Maine Magazine, Aristelle, Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine. Audio production and original music are by Spencer Albee. Our editorial producer is Brittany Cost. Our assistant producer is Shelbi Wassick. Our community development manager is Casey Lovejoy. And our executive producers are Andrea King, Kevin Thomas, Rebecca Falzano and Dr Lisa Belisle. For more in on our production team, Maine Magazine, or any of the guests featured here today, please visit us at lovemainradio.com.